Well, Mike, it does exist. BrotherBob and I recently exchanged some messages on this topic. I do not know how his implementation is working out, but my experience has been mixed.
There used to be something called a Slink-E, I think by a company called Nirvis (it is no longer produced). I found a similar product called a SAVR, manufactured by Black Box Designs
. They are both serial interfaces; they plug into the AI II jack on the back of your Sony player(s) and into the serial port of your computer.
You also need software (there are links on the Black Box page). My understanding is that Panther Studios
bought out Titletrack (which was a Mac engineered product). I got my SAVR and the Music! software from them. HOWEVER, it appears from their website that they are no longer selling the hardware device. You may wish to contact Black Box directly to see if it is still in production. William C. McCain
still seems to be selling them, but I would ensure that he actually HAS THEM before ordering. I honestly do not remember why I went with Music! instead of McCain's product. It may very well have been completely arbitrary. I might buy his software some day just to see if I prefer the interface to the one I have now.
You can probably see that both Black Box and the software developers are pretty small outfits.
The software is fully-featured; you can sort things any way you want, and have playlists and just about anything you can think of.
As I said, my experience has been mixed. It "works" but is not all that elegant. The software works fine and the developer at Panther has been really gracious and responsive. Primarily, my problem is that I have to turn on too many devices and wait for the PC to boot up before doing "anything". And my PC is not IR capable at the moment, so the mighty MX-700 doesn't give me any love. My problems may very well be insignificant to your system.
It is pretty damn cool, though. The Music software searched the players, and found and loaded all the titles, tracks and most of the lyrics and cover art from the internet. It is fun to be able to see that stuff on the screen. Another problem I have (that you probably do NOT have) is that the OSD for my PC is hooked up to a standard def TV, so the resolution is not as legible as I'd like. Running the HTPC to a HDTV and using this kind of interface could be pretty darn sexy.
It did take some time to manually update the database with unrecognized disks and cover art, though. One other thing that the SAVR/Music combo allowed me to do was upload the results to the changers themselves. That is, now that the computer knows the title of a disk, and that information has been uploaded to the changers, even if I'm not using the computer, I still get the CD text on the players (not at the Track level, however). That helped a lot, and might be worth the price of admission by itself.
The one quandary that I continue to struggle with is the connections. Developers of the software that guides the SAVR devices are emphatic that you "should" connect each player directly to the SAVR, and I do believe that doing so improves the functionality and reliability of the software. But there are additional costs and consequences. Namely, you MUST buy and install some kind of mixer device (either an audio mixer or a digital switch of some kind) to sum the outputs of the two players into the one input on your receiver or preamp. Secondly, since the players are connected to the SAVR and NOT TO EACH OTHER, this configuration completely loses the "no delay" slave/master functionality natively built into the Sony. They become independent devices except when controlled by the software/SAVR thing.
So, to get optimal functionality from the SAVR, you have to abandon the Sony linkage and introduce another device between the player and the preamp. Personally, I was unwilling to do that - partly because I could not find a cost-effective digital switch solution and I was unwilling to add yet another analog cable (and cost) to the chain between the disk and the amp. Consequently, I cannot do fades with the SAVR and have had intermittent problems with shuffle functions.
Likewise, I have a (basically crappy compared to most folks) Denon 1804 receiver. With the DVD and DirecTivo using the optical inputs and the HTPC using the coax digital, I have to use the DACs in the CD player. I'm out of ports. Furthermore, the Denon inexplicably does not pass digital signals to its zone2 amplifier (which I am currently using to power speakers in the kitchen). I want tunes in the kitchen. I do not want to buy more stuff. So, there it is. Again, I do not believe that using the DAC’s in the Sony degrades the audio quality, and I certainly don’t believe that doing so could provide lower quality than ripping them to a lossy format.
Until I can get my PC built to the point where I can press about three buttons and get music to happen, the SAVR is not my every day solution. I am not an expert in this area, so understand I am not saying it can't/shouldn't be done, it just poses some challenges for me right now.
I have all my disks assigned to groups, but most of the time, if I am not listening to something specific, I just play the whole damn library on full random (no delay between players) and just hit skip if there is something I don't want to hear at that moment.
It kind of depends upon how closely interfaced your computer is with your HT. In my case, I have not yet taken the time to work out all the operating system nuances to make it convenient enough to use on a daily basis.
I've got to say, I LOVE having all my CD's loaded and ready to go. I listen to stuff now that I had not heard in years.
Despite the software and SAVR device, I still maintain an Excel spreadsheet with the catalog in it. I make changes and print it out as necessary, and have it in a small folder in the living room. Sometimes, a pencil is the right tool for the job.
I believe Escient makes some devices that use real CD player technology to manage disks, but that they are expensive.
I can't imagine having the time to rip ~600 CD's to MP3 or FLAC or AAC or whatever. And I am skeptical that I would savor the results. I like the disks.
I did a lot of research on this, but found that ultimately, the world seems to be going to MP3's, so there is not a lot of technical support for what we are discussing here. It seems like there are the vinyl people, the one-disk CD people, the MP3 people and a very few megachanger people with this vision.