If you're rich enough to have a dedicated media server from the likes of Crestron, Elan, Escient, Kaleidescape, ReQuest or Apple—a strange one to mix in, I thought—you can go off and buy Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time already ripped and encoded on a NAS RAID drive, for the low price of $9,000, thanks to a company called Terra-San. I can see several problems with this:
• If you love music enough to install a server, you probably already own (or, um, have borrowed) at least 500 really good albums, potentially a decent overlap of stuff. Like me, you may have accumulated most of the 500 totally by accident, not to mention a lot of other less popular music.
• Assuming you don't have the CDs in pocket, and your digital downloads just don't cut the mustard, you can probably buy them all at an average of $8 or $9 a piece, and many are pre-collected in box sets at substantial discounts—and with attractive keepsake booklets to boot. Besides, most of this stuff would be easy to find in used bins, too. We're not exactly talking about the rare and out-of-print here. At most you'd be out somewhere between $4,500 or $5,000.
• The argument that this will save you time ripping CDs only holds true if you can't find someone to rip your CDs for less than $4,000. Ask any kid in the market for a plasma TV if he'd rip all your CDs and he'll probably name a price between $1,000 and $2,000—throw in a USB drive for free—and believe he's getting away with murder. [Electronic House]