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Review of the Apple TV as an Audio Archiver
A novel solution for managing your song catalog
By now, everyone has heard of iTunes, the iPod and perhaps even the iPhone. Opinions may vary on the value of these devices. But there is one compelling reason to go with iTunes, which of course is available on PCs as well as on Apple Computers. iTunes works with Apple TV, in a different room in your house, connected, ideally, to a different sound system. Hey, what do you mean "So What?" Lets explore the potential of this technology for your home studio. Can this device, which is designed to sell you movie rentals, actually help the studio process?
By adding and Apple TV to your home, your whole iTunes song library, as well as videos, is accessible in your living room on your HDTV using the Apple TV remote. (If you have an iPhone you can get an application that lets you use the phone as a full featured graphical remote). I have a lot of songs. During my last archive session where I converted all my old DATs, cassettes, and reel to reel masters to .wav and .mp3, I ended up with about 1300 unique songs. That's so many songs to keep track of. Imagine, you want to hear something you did 9 years ago. I used to have to go through stacks of CDs and Tapes to find it. Then I'd realize it was not backed up and would start worrying about the fragile nature of the master.
I imported all the .MP3 versions to iTunes. (I could have put the .wav editions in there as well.) Then I scanned the cover noter of the old tape with the track listing and used it as cover art for each song. The result: By pressing one button on the Apple remote, I can browse through my entire song catalog, by year, by album, by my rating, by genre. I get a big pic of the originally handwritten track listing on my HDTV and the sound comes out my big 3-way living room monitors, which sound completely different from my studio monitors.
The advantage is getting your mixes to translate to other systems. When I am in my studio mixing away, all I have to do is make a bounce and import that to iTunes, sync it to the TV (takes seconds), then by the time I walk out there the song is ready to play. My living room has many more acoustic problems than the studio does and if a mix can survive out there its a good sign. Plus i get to lay on the couch and think about what is working and what is not. :)
I cannot say enough good things about the Apple TV used in this capacity. I used to have shelves and shelves of tapes, cds, and a database on my computer to keep up with all this work. Now its on TV. I can add songs to the database as soon as they come out of the oven in Logic. In fact, I have it set so whenever I click the "add to iTunes" inside Logic, it will also go to the Apple TV. Its also great when the band comes over. You can have them all sit in the living room, where they are less likely to knock over and break stuff, and you can pause, rewind fast forward to parts of the song. You can jump through your band's song collection with ease, no changing cds, no waiting, every song in your library is accessible immediately.
Browsing an old DAT tape on the Apple TV
How it works:
When you have an Apple TV, it connects over Wi-Fi (or Cat 5) to your internet router in your house. It will automatically connect to your computer and will sync (either automatically or manually) to iTunes. The Sync process is a copy process. The Apple TV copies your whole iTunes Music library to its hard drive. So in addition to being an archive of all your songs, you also get a great way to just listen to music. I have the Apple TV with the 160 GB hard drive. Since I did not have WI-FI at my house I had to get an Airport Express. I could have wired the Apple TV straight to the router, but Its nice to be able to move about the house with the iPhone and use it as a remote. For instance I just changed the song from a room 50 feet away with the iPhone.
You can access the iTunes store from your TV if you want and buy stuff. It will also end up on your main computer. Finally, almost as an afterthought for me, you know Apple TV is a great interface for YouTube and tons of free audio and video podcasts. I was astonished by how much free stuff there is! You can also buy series of TV programs and rent HD movies from iTunes if you ever get time for that.
To sum up, I can only say I have spent much more money on gear that did not bring as much enjoyment as the Apple TV has.
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