(Over the years, I’ve used Imerge, Linn and Meridian Sooloos servers, as well as several flavours of PC software solutions with NAS’s. So, got that T-shirt )
Having used servers before, for me, the ripping and the UI is such a critical aspect of a server product features. Almost as much as the sound quality itself.
When we had the Zen Mini on home loan, I ripped maybe 40-50 discs. I made a point of trying some of the albums I knew might be tricky. For example, ones that don’t rip well, classical albums, multi disc 2 or 3 disc albums, rare albums, from low key or even unknown artists, to see what the music databases do with these, etc.
I was genuinely impressed, with both the Innuos server and also the database(s) it goes to for metadata, etc. In most cases, it got everything right first time.
A few exceptions. One disc, it would not rip. Turned out, it was produced with copyright protection software. (Which was a big thing in the music industry back in the 00’s). Another one, it produced two separate album listings for a two disc album. But this can be corrected. Also, on several occasions, it picked cover art which wasn’t exactly right by my mind. This can also be easily changed. Several albums were not recognised, from new bands, which I expected. It’s easy to import both cover art, as a photo. Also, type your track listings, in the Sense UI. Although I used an iPad to do this, I think a desk top might be better if I was doing a lot of this. (As you say, get ready and gear up to do all this all, as a production style project). The only odd thing I found was that it got album release dates wrong, (incorrect) or didn’t add any release dates. But, again, this can be corrected. I think the music database sometimes have dates of later releases stored, maybe not the original. It’s an issue for me, because the Zen Mini presents all the albums for an artist, in release date order. For me, it’s a bit odd, when they are out of order and this is just down to the album release date being incorrect or not present.
On the whole, the Zen works pretty well. It “fetches” all the data, (about 30 secs), then asks the user to confirm, before continuing to rip. So you are prompted to accept what’s it doing at the outset. Offering the opportunity to change any of the details, at that point.