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Definition: digital media server

(1) Software that makes audio, video or images discoverable on the local network. See media server.

(2) Any source for digital media such as a DVR, file server or personal computer.

(3) A DLNA-certified device that stores multimedia content. See DMS and DLNA.

(4) Hardware that stores and serves digital media to a stereo system or home theater. The digital media server plugs into the home theater receiver, stereo receiver or TV and connects to the home network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. The media server includes built-in storage to hold music, videos and photos, and, it may connect to external drives. DVR capability and Internet radio are also features. Earlier media servers connected to and controlled CD/DVD changers.

A Server Is Also a Hub
Media servers typically include the functions of a media hub, which streams content from the Internet as well as from computers in the home network (see digital media hub).

Network Music Player
When media servers support only audio, they are called "network music players" or "music streamers." The primary difference is that they decode digital audio files and not video. See network music player.

Rip and Copy
Media servers may include an optical drive for ripping CDs to various digital audio formats, as well as copying DVDs to the server's storage device. If the optical drive supports writing, music and movies can be burned onto blank CDs and DVDs. See ripping and codec examples.

The Home Control Center
Media servers are designed to be an entertainment control center for cataloging, organizing and distributing the family's multimedia collection throughout the house. Using a wireless keyboard, regular Windows PCs are sometimes customized by vendors for this purpose, and they can also be built by tech-savvy users (see HTPC).

Network and A/V Connections
Media servers hook into the network over Ethernet or Wi-Fi and to the A/V equipment via various analog and digital connections. However, analog sockets are disappearing rapidly.

Both Server and Hub
This Universal Music Controller from Musical Fidelity serves music from connected drives and iPods as well as streams music from computers in the network. (Image courtesy of Musical Fidelity Limited.)

Media Center PC
When placed in the A/V equipment rack, a PC with the Windows Media Center interface becomes a digital media server. If the PC is in another room, an Extender allows content to be streamed to the stereo or home theater. When targeting the home theater market, Windows PC vendors build their machines in a horizontal case with the same dimensions as A/V components. See Windows Media Center and HTPC.

A Windows Media Center PC
This was an earlier Core i7-based Media Center PC with two terabytes of disk storage and an HDTV tuner card. (Image courtesy of Cybertron International, Inc.)