What is a "music management system"?

Terminology in this product category is inconsistent. At 3beez, we use the term "music management system" to refer to an audio component that could be described as "a CD player on steroids". Like a CD player, it is a single box that connects to your audio system and serves as a source of music. Unlike a CD player, the box stores all your music – whether extracted from CDs or downloaded from the Internet – on a hard disk drive. Powerful software allows you to catalog your music collection, select recordings, and control playback using a tablet, desktop system, or smartphone.

You might also see terms such as "server", "streamer", "player", or "all-in-one" applied to systems like this. "Server" is a technical term related to computers. It is usually used in conjunction with the term "client". Wikipedia defines server as

a system ... that responds to requests across a computer network to provide ... a network service [server].

Wikipedia defines client as

a piece of computer hardware or software that accesses a service made available by a server [client].

When the server and client function together, as they must to provide a complete solution, they form a "client-server architecture" [architecture].

A NAS (Network-Attached Storage) [NAS] is a server. It is a box that connects to the network and stores data in files. If those files happen to contain audio data, then the NAS can be the server in a music system. It is also possible for a desktop computer to be the server.

A client in a music system sends requests to the server – over a network, typically – for audio data and then plays the data using a DAC (digital-to-analog converter). Neither the server nor the client makes music by itself. Each needs the other to form a complete system. Some audio companies offer complete solutions comprising two boxes. Others offer single boxes that address only one of the functions of a client-server architecture. Those products interact with products made by other manufacturers to realize a complete solution.

One industry expert [audiostream] advocates using the term streamer to refer to a device that accesses music data over the network and plays it. Hmm. Sounds like a client. Strangely, while many audio manufacturers have embraced the term "server" with such enthusiasm that they apply it even to products that are not servers, no company we are aware of uses the term client to describe products that actually are clients. Such a device is usually called either a "streamer" or a "player".

A single box could contain both a server and a client. What would you call such a box? The same industry expert advocates calling it an all-in-one system. That term captures the idea that the system encapsulates multiple components, but out of context it says nothing about the fundamental nature of the system (does it make music or does it wash and dry clothes?). Moreover, one audio company uses the term "all-in-one" to refer to a player that also contains an amplifier.

Many manufacturers of products that store and play music call their products servers. Why would they do that? The products are not responding to requests from some other device to perform a service, they are performing all functions themselves. Server describes only half of what their products do. If these companies made a single device capable of washing and drying clothes, would they call it a "washing machine"? They are doing themselves a disservice by labeling their products with a term that does not reflect all of the capabilities of the products.

At 3beez, we believe in describing a product accurately and we are not afraid to buck industry trends when they are wrong. We coined the phrase "Music Management System" to describe our system because that phrase accurately describes what the system does. It makes music; it manages the music by storing it, cataloging it, and playing it; and it is a complete system, not software that needs to be installed on a computer and configured to function. The Wax Music Management System is unique not only in the way it provides these capabilities, but also in the lapidary precision of its moniker.