Olive ONE home digital audio player review
Olive ONE might be a curious name for a home digital audio player but this good-looking bit of kit certainly has a spec sheet to keep those with tunes trapped in their computers who care about quality interested.
The Olive ONE is here to emancipate your digital music library from your computer so that it can be freely enjoyed through your main Hi-Fi system. This is a good thing if, like me, you did follow the trends from vinyl to cassette, from CD to MP3, from MP3 to FLAC. I never threw out my records, or cassettes but I did go through a period of a few years where everything I bought was virtual. Mostly because I moved to London and have been fairly transient due to renting flats wherever I could afford to live.
I originally met the Olive ONE at the National Audio Show last year but had been following its progress from the device’s crowdfunded beginnings through to the Olive ONE becoming a real, buyable device.
Olive ONE design
Olive ONE was originally announced through an Indiegogo campaign. Way back in April 2013 the campaign raised over half a million dollars from around 1,500 backers so it appears obvious that there is a market for such a device.
What was produced certainly seemed to match the promises made to the pledgers – a lovely-looking glass and aluminium product packed with audiophile gadgety goodness.
The Olive ONE has a 7-inch LCD touchscreen panel that dominates the gently sloping front.
Alternatively you can make use of its coaxial, RCA and Ethernet (if you don’t want to go the wifi route) connections. It also has Bluetooth and DLNA/UPnP input if you fancy squirting tunes from your mobile devices.
The Olive ONE comes without a hard drive to be used with your NAS (network attached storage) as well as coming loaded with a 1TB or 2 TB hard drive.
The player will fit in to most systems thanks to its 9.0-inch (22.9 cm) diameter and measuring only 1.61-inch (4.1 cm) at its highest point from which it slopes down to 0.82-inch (2.1 cm) at lowest point. It weighs in at a healthy 6 lb. (2.7 kg) without HDD.
Olive ONE set up and specs
The ONE promises to make enjoying music even easier. First thing I do when I get to the living-room on a morning is to put some music on. Pre-coffee me likes things to be as easy as possible and some mornings even putting a CD on can be a task.
Thankfully, with the Olive ONE, getting some tunes on the go is simply a case of turning the ONE on, turning the amp on, select an album, play.
To get o that point there’s some setting up to do though.
Olive ONE first impressions
The first thing I noticed was that the touchscreen isn’t as sensitive as the latest mobile phones. It does work as expected for the most part and, once you know where and how to prod it in to obedience, all is well.
If you can’t be bothered getting up off the sofa to control the Olive ONE you’ll be glad to know that there is, of course, an app downloadable for both iOS and Android devices which allows you perform all the usual selection and volume adjustment tasks.
The Music OS interface is clear and built for the job, rather than being a skinned version of Android or similar. There are many elements still being developed, such as integration to social networks, but it manages the immediate task at hand without many grumbles.
Olive ONE setting up
Hooking up the Olive ONE to your network is done either through wired Ethernet cable or over Wi-Fi. Both worked for me but, as a gamer, I always prefer a wired connection where available. Saying that, I didn’t get any drop-out when purely relying on the Wi-Fi connection through the unit’s detachable aerial.
That aerial can also be folded away out of sight. That’s how I had it and it still picked up my Wi-Fi network, which is great as it doesn’t ruin the clean lines of the ONE then.
Once you’re on the network it’s then just a matter of following the easy-to-follow instructions in the little quick-start guide booklet. As a PC owner this involved getting the device’s IP address by tapping the network status icon in the top left corner.
After writing that down, nip over to your computer and hit the Windows+R keys to Run and sling in that IP address you diligently wrote down. Sorted.
Mac owners have it slightly easier – but that’s how they like it.
Once you get the little folder on your desktop you can simply drag and drop your WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, and Ogg Vorbis audio files in to the Olive ONE.
Remember though, WAV and AIFF formats don’t carry metadata tags and will therefore not display any artist, track or album information leaving it stranded as Unknown in all fields.
The Olive ONE comes bundled with an analogue audio cable from Monster and this is what I used to plug it directly in to my Musical Fidelity M6si amp.
You navigate through Music OS via a song selection screen which is divided into three sections: one column for the artist, another for the album and then once an album is selected, it will show you a list of songs. It’s pretty intuitive.
Olive ONE specifications
Under the hood is a pair of 32W/channel into 8 Ohm, high-efficiency (92%) amps using 1 amp per channel. This is being fed by the Burr-Brown PCM5142 digital analogue converter (DAC). The DAC handles 32-bit/384kHz with 8X oversampling and sports a Signal-to-Noise ratio of 112dB and an ultra-low jitter master clock which should all add up to pretty decent sound quality – and it does.
Olive ONE performance
The user interface is fairly flexible and allows you to arrange the song, artist, and album in the cascading, left-to-right order of your choice.
There are two main buttons which can be found slightly encroaching on the touchscreen. One gets you in to the settings menu and the other is for searching. Below those is a circular control area that anyone who has ever used an iPod Classic will no doubt feel comfortable with.
It is perhaps a shame that sometimes the software feels a bit clumsy and periodically hangs and pauses. I have had instances when I have resorted to tapping the screen continually for something to happen – as a tech guy, I know this is wrong but there’s no clue as to whether the ONE is working on something or just ignoring me.
Setting up the app, again, requires the ONE’s IP address – thankfully I have written it on a Post-It which is attached to the guide booklet. Once you open the app, the ONE is rendered dumb with a on-screen message informing you that control has been handed over to your mobile device. Ah, the power!
Olive ONE sound quality
The Olive ONE doesn’t seem to colour the playback and is what I’d describe as being honest.
I let the ONE rely on its own DAC rather than putting it through my Arcam irDAC or the one in my MF amp and it really does do a credible job.
I could not detect any harshness, clipping or nasty artifacts.
What I did get was precise bass with good weight and a slightly forward midrange when compared to my Oppo disc spinner. I put the difference down to the Oppo going through the Arcam DAC.
I wasn’t expecting it to sound bad per se but I was also not expecting wonders from the pair of little amp chips.
I have to say that the Olive ONE is more than capable of acting as a stand alone digital audio set-up. This makes it ideal for those who either don’t have any physical media or who are looking for an office/bedroom system that’s not going to take up much room. The ONE will definitely be able to do that, and look really good whilst doing it.
So, the Olive ONE can become part of your main system or be an all-in-one lifestyle music player. That’s pretty neat – but there’s more.
As multi-room systems have made their way in to many users’ hearts then it would be an oversight on Olive’s part not to include that functionality in their ONE.
So, let’s say you have a ONE loaded with a 2TB drive, that means you can have other ONEs dotted about your home without their own storage slurping up audio goodness from that master ONE.
To that end, Olive has a deal on a variety of bundles.
Olive ONE review conclusion
If you’re looking for a digital music storage and playing device to integrate in to your main system, the Olive ONE can deliver.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one lifestyle system for the living-room, or a compact stand-alone system for the office or bedroom, the Olive ONE can do that to.
How about a multi-room networked player? Yup, there’s ONE for that to!
I liked the Bluesound Vault and Node offerings but, for me, the Olive ONE is a more attractive proposition. I love how it looks and, once you have your PC and ONE connection set up, it’s easy to fling your FLACs over to it.
The user interface is intuitive and whilst the operating system can sometimes leave you hanging, it is worth remembering that it is still a work in progress. I did deduct some points for this though.
I am not aware of anything that has this level of flexibility wrapped up in something that looks this good for the price. I am honestly considering adding this on to my shopping list.
Olive ONE availability and price
The Olive ONE is available in the UK from Audiobility for the following prices, that include VAT.
- £660 without storage
- £750 1Tb
- £860 2Tb