Underneath the optical drive—the Wax Box slot loads from the front—are two 1TB hard disk drives (HDDs) and a single solid-state drive (SSD). Barish needed to use 2.5" drives instead of the more common 3.5" size because of the enclosure’s smallish dimensions, but there were other concerns as well. “I was sensitive to issues of noise because this is a product that’s going to live in a user’s listening room,” he told me. “I didn’t want to have the sound of a mechanical device interfere with the enjoyment of music. The first thing I did to address that issue was to choose 2.5" drives. They have less mass and they tend to be a little quieter than 3.5" drives.
They’re carefully mounted in a box with a solid base using mechanical isolation to prevent the transmission of mechanical noise.” The operating system is on the solid-state drive. “I included the SSD for two reasons,” Barish said. “One is that it allows Wax Box to start up and stop more quickly so that it acts more like a standard audio product. The other reason is that it permits completely silent operation when playing. Wax, when you make a request for a recording, checks first to see if that recording is available in a cache on the SSD.
If it’s not there, it turns on the HDD with the sound archive long enough to transfer all of the files it needs off of it and store them in the cache on the SSD. It then turns off the HDD—it idles it. To any substantial degree, the only time you use the hard disk drive is when you’re ripping and tagging. Otherwise, it’s all SSD.”
Barish uses 1TB hard drives because, as of this time, that’s the largest capacity available in the 2.5" size. This will be changing (if it hasn’t already), and Barish promises to use the highest-capacity 2.5" HDDs he can. The two HDDs hold identical data: Wax Box automatically backs up your music files once a day. “I decided to build the backup capability into the Wax Box because many people are negligent when it comes to backups. I think almost everybody knows that you’re supposed to do backups but my experience is that many people never get around to it. My fear was we might have a situation where somebody invests a tremendous amount of time ripping an entire collection and carefully entering all the metadata desired and then, because of a disk crash—over which I have no control—he loses everything. I highly recommend that you create additional backups, especially if you’re so conscientious that you move your backups off-site. If your house burns down, you still have the data.” Likewise, Barish is also watching out for you when it comes to software updates. If you leave your Wax Box on at night, they will occur automatically between midnight and 3 AM.
There are two ways for a user to operate the Wax system. Option 1—“Direct Control”—is simpler. After establishing an Ethernet connection for the Wax Box, you plug a monitor into either the DVI-D, D-Sub, or HDMI ports on the back of the unit and a keyboard and mouse into two of the USB ports. You could use this method permanently but most users will configure Option 2 to allow remote control from the listening position using a tablet, smart phone, or desktop system. The excellent 55-page user’s manual (included in the Wax software—print it out and put it in a binder) explains clearly how to set up a “remote desktop viewer” with pretty much any device (an iPad and Android or Windows-based tablets, for examples.) Viewer applications—there are quite a few—range in cost from free (the Real VNC Viewer for Windows) to $30 or so.
The heart and soul of the Wax Music Management System is the Wax software. How smoothly it works with all kinds of music is what makes Wax Box worth the $5000 asking price (which is actually right in the middle of the pack for this kind of product.)
Wax is based on the Linux operating system, both for economic reasons—no licensing fees—and because it’s open-source software, which allowed the designer to “dive into the source code” when necessary. Barish carefully examined the way he interacted with physical media to devise a platform that’s exceptionally intuitive to use. This is apparent the very first time you turn the thing on and encounter the uncluttered Graphical User Interface (GUI).