In my review of Autonomic Controls’ MMS-5 Mirage Media Server last year, I mentioned that it felt more like I was evaluating a service and software package than a box, per se. Oddly enough, it took receiving a new and different box from Autonomic to solidify that notion.
In terms of hardware, the MMS-2 is probably most aptly described as the MMS-5’s little brother. It sports one digital optical audio output and one stereo analog output rather than the grand total of five audio zones of its predecessor. It’s about half the size, has half the internal storage space (500 GB vs. 1 TB), and at $1,995 it costs about half as much.
Autonomic Controls’ MMS-2 (pictured here with the Mirage Media Controller for iPad and iPhone) sports one digital optical audio output and one stereo analog output rather than the grand total of five audio zones of its predecessor, the MMS-5. But, it costs about half as much.
But for all that, the experience the MMS-2 offers is anything but scaled down. Autonomic is marketing the MMS-2 as the perfect addition for owners of the MMS-5 with second homes or yachts, or for smaller homes that simply don’t need five zones of audio (which is more my case: after hooking them up and testing them out, I’ll admit that I never actually used more than two of the MMS-5’s outputs, not to mention the fact that I never even halffilled its internal hard drive).
Despite the different package, the MMS-2 delivers exactly the same performance, the same easy setup, the same flexibility, and all of the same pre-built control options that the MMS-5 does. And I say “does” instead of “did,” because in the nine months or so since I spent an appreciable time with an Autonomic system, the company has continued to refine its server experience without having to make any changes to existing hardware.
At the heart of it, the installation experience is still the same: simply load up the Mirage Media Sync program on any networked computer in the home, click a few check boxes, and the MMS-2 automatically snags content from iTunes, Windows Media Player, and (Praise the Baby Buddha!) any additional music folders you’d like to sync. The latter is one of my favorite features, since most of the servers I’ve experienced that are this easy to set up are limited to iTunes or DLNA synchronization, which makes it a hassle to stream FLAC files (of which I have a few) without all sorts of finagling and fretting and plugin installation.
Autonomic also has been working hard on updating its control modules, which make slick twoway integration with AMX, Crestron, RTI, and URC control systems a snap. Unfortunately, there’s still no love for my beloved URC MX-5000, but the company’s RTI module has been completely revamped since my last review, and work should begin in earnest on the MX-5000 module soon.
I didn’t notice any changes to the company’s iPhone/iPad control app (which was still in beta form as of my MMS-5 review), but I can’t think of any changes that need to be made. I still contend that it’s the best app of its kind; navigating libraries on the server itself and music from streaming source is so well integrated that, as I said before, after a few minutes with the app you stop thinking about sources and just think about the music.
Syncing Pandora, RadioTime, Spotify, and up to two Sirius-XM accounts with the server is as easy as ever: just dial any web browser in the home to the server’s address, plug in a few passwords, and you’re done. There’s also still incredibly easy integration with the cloud-based music storage and distribution system MP3Tunes.com–just plug in a login and password, check one or both of the boxes labeled, “Access content from my cloud account on this server” and, “Add content from this server to my cloud account.”
Ever wonder what the much-discussed internet "cloud" looks like? Here's Autonomic Controls' version.
Perhaps more exciting is the recent decision by Autonomic to add support for Amazon Cloud Drive in the very near future. When that goes live, the moment you purchase music from Amazon, it will be instantly available via the MMS-2 (or any of Autonomic’s systems, for that matter).
Autonomic has such an amazing proprietary software and control package on its hands–one that also soon will be integrated into Colorado vNet’s new MS1-1 Vibe Media Streamer, by the way–that it’s all too easy to forget about the hardware on which it resides. Or it would be, if not for the retinaburning blue LED on the front panel. (Hello, black electrical tape! I knew I’d find a use for you sooner or later!) And hopefully you as an integrator will find it just as easy to overlook after the installation is complete. It may be a little fellow, but the MMS- 2 feels positively bulletproof, and with few physical features aside from the audio outputs on the back and power button on the front, I can’t imagine much going wrong with it.
As for sound quality, is the MMS-2 up to the performance standards of PS Audio’s PerfectWave DAC and Bridge? Not quite, but then again, nothing else I’ve heard is. For the vast majority of listeners, though, and the vast majority of music collections, the MMS-2’s optical output delivers exceptional audio quality, and assuming its two zones of output are sufficient, it should be more than enough music server for any home.
And if my experience with Autonomic Controls thus far is any indication, the thing should be damnnear future proof.
The MMS -2 offers an amazingly robust music streaming experience with easy setup, tons of flexibility, support for pretty much every format you’ve ever heard of (including FLAC), and an astounding set of control options.
The front panel features an LED -backlit power button that only an optometrist with a boat payment could love.
■ Video Output: VGA, 15 Pin D-Sub Connector; component video available with optional adapter
■ Audio Processor: Realtek AL C662 5.1 Channel HD
■ Digital-to-Analog Conversion: 44.1k /48k /96kHz
■ Master Volume -80dB to +20dB 4Frequency Response <10Hz to 48kHz
■ S/N Ratio 95db, A weighted
■ Dynamic Range >110dB
■ Channel Separation >90dB
■ Audio Connectors:
■ Storage Internal Storage 500 GB Magnetic