Network Audio Players/Servers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 12, 2019
hfncommendedThe entry-level model in Naim's new network music player range may look simple to the point of anonymity, but its performance could make it the true star of the lineup

No display, no power supply upgrade route, not even a remote handset: at first glance, the most striking feature of Naim's £2299 ND5 XS 2, the junior model in its revitalised network music player range, could be everything it hasn't got. After the striking looks of the 'new Uniti' models, with which it shares a software/hardware platform, and the large full-colour displays of the pricier NDX 2 [HFN Sep '18] and ND555, the ND5 XS 2 gives away little about its functionality.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngPacking a high quality DAC and streamer into a half-size box, this new digital converter also features powerful user-configurable DSP. It's a potent combination…

With this new DAC, for the first time in my design career, I have the chance to make an impression that has people saying “wow”', Daniel Weiss told HFN. 'Designed by our team here, it is different – but not radically so – to our earlier products.' He's being a little modest because the new Weiss DAC501 is more than a little diverting in any number of different ways…

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngThe Norwegian brand’s latest amp is not just its most powerful integrated, but comes complete with network audio capability. Is this the ultimate one-box amp solution?

Obviously not afraid of a spot of (Russell?) crowing, Oslo-based Hegel describes its new Reference H590 integrated amp, just going on sale at £9000, as ‘Master and Commander’. Apparently it’s ‘A master at musicality’ and ‘The commander of any set of speakers’. Mind you, you might be tempted to forgive the company for its exuberance – after all, the new arrival is something of a monster, standing an AV-receiver-challenging 17.1cm tall, tipping the scales at 22kg and delivering over 300W per channel. Well, 301W a side actually, according to Hegel, making it at least 50% more powerful than its previous top integrated, the H360.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngThis neatly packaged, sleekly-styled Scandinavian integrated offers DAC and streaming functionality, plus a very fine sound thanks to its proven Class D power amp modules

Many think of Apple as creating today’s world of sleek, minimalist consumer electronics – but the business and creative heads of that Californian company – Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive – were themselves inspired by great talents working in hi-fi, long before the iconic iPod was ever launched. Lest we forget, Jacob Jensen did amazing industrial design work at Bang & Olufsen for decades, as did Dieter Rams at Braun 15 years earlier.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngHere’s a network audio bridge, a USB player and computer audio cleaning device, and a Roon Ready endpoint – all in one tiny (and affordable) box. Is there anything it can’t do?

The rise of ‘computer audio’ has rewritten the rules on hi-fi components. What once required a full-width separate can now be achieved with an almost vanishingly small box of computer technology, all ready to connect into your existing system. You can stream using a Raspberry Pi, an Asus Tinkerbox or an Intel NUC – to name but a few – and a whole industry has sprung up making add-ons for these mini-computers to turn them into digital or analogue audio devices, or even complete ‘just add speakers’ systems.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2018
'Bridge' digital sources, the link between conventional physical media and computer-based audio, are very much on-trend at the moment – what can T+A bring to the party?

So, are the twin threats of downloaded music and streaming services putting the final nail in CD's coffin? In the future will our music collections exist only as files on a home server, or indeed not as collections at all – figures seem to suggest downloads are flagging – but rather as infinite libraries accessed on demand from online services?

Review: David Vivian, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngThe company ups the ante by adding a 'just-add-speakers' solution to its Artera series, managing to squeeze streaming alongside CD replay into casework of pert proportions

So far, Quad's Artera family has comprised the Play (a combined CD transport, DAC and preamp) and the Stereo [HFN Nov '15], which is a power amp using the company's Current Dumping topology. Both solid-state components, not only are they compact and dapper but high functioning and lifestyle literate too – a feat that's trickier than it might seem. But not as tricky as folding all of the above (plus streaming) into a chassis with the same proportions as the other components in the Artera range.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngMaking the step from software supplier to hardware brand, Roon has developed a pair of boxes designed to sit at the heart of a system. But what do they actually do?

Having been something of a ‘sleeper’ for a while, favoured by an admittedly growing group of computer-based audio enthusiasts, there’s every sign that Roon – the music server/database software – is finally going rather more mainstream. A number of manufacturers have launched products with, or updated existing models to, Roon-ready status, and now the company behind the software has entered the hardware market with a pair of hub components co-developed with Intel: the £1500 Nucleus, and the £2500 Nucleus+ we have for review here.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngHugely flexible, hugely capable and, well, just plain ‘huge’, dCS’s flagship Vivaldi four-box digital stack has been condensed into a one-box solution. So why a limited edition?

There comes a time when you have to pop the champagne cork, relax and have fun. That’s what dCS (Data Conversion Systems Ltd) has done with its new £55k Vivaldi One single-box disc player/upsampling DAC/streamer. It’s a limited edition of just 250 pieces, designed to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary. In that time, the company has gone from being an Official Secrets Act signatory supplying advanced radar systems for the RAF towards the end of the Cold War, to one of the most respected high-end digital audio specialists around.

Review: Cliff Joseph, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngIt's costlier still than its predecessor, but Questyle's updated portable Digital Audio Player-and-dock combo delivers great sound quality – both at home and on the road

Shenzhen-based brand Questyle impressed the pundits with its debut QP1R digital audio player (DAP), launched back in 2015 at just the right time to exploit the increased interest in high-quality portable players and DACs. At first glance, the new QP2R looks very similar, with the same rugged and sturdy design – available in either gold or an Apple-esque 'space-grey' – and that distinctive armour-plated volume control protruding from the top of the device.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 14, 2015
Lindemann audiotechnik, a boutique brand from Germany, has focused on high-end music replay for the past 20 years. It was one of the world’s first high-end brands to offer an outboard USB-to-S/PDIF converter for connecting a computer to a DAC. And it was also quick off the mark to make a USB-equipped DAC. Identifying a new trend for ‘downsizing’ complicated audio rigs, it has developed a range of four midi-sized – if expensive – products dubbed Musicbook.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 14, 2015
When Primare set out to develop its I32 integrated amplifier a few years ago (and sibling PRE32 preamp) it also designed in an expansion slot for an optional media streaming and DAC board dubbed the MM30. That optional MM30 ‘media board’ PCB forms the heart of the NP30 network media player/DAC. It’s based around a UPnP/DLNA network streaming module from German supplier Audivo. Playback of music files up to 192kHz/24-bit is supported via wired Ethernet LAN, with gapless playback of segued tracks, along with internet radio using the familiar vTuner platform.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 14, 2015
Sony has returned to pure, two-channel, high fidelity sound; there’s an initiative to bring hi-fi replay back to the top of its consumers’ must-have wish lists. And it has produced a raft of new products focused around hi-res computer audio. All are compatible with files up to 24-bit/192kHz and, of course, DSD downloads. HFN was first in line to sample the ‘Elevated Standard’ HAP-Z1ES digital music file player featuring a built-in 1TB HDD, and its partnering TA-A1ES integrated amplifier rated at 80W/8ohm.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 13, 2015
Canadian audio manufacturer Bryston adopted a purist approach with its first computer audio product, the BDP-1 ‘digital player’ [HFN Apr ’11], this based on an ultra-minimalist computer with four USB sockets for memory sticks or external HDDs. An enhanced model, the BDP-2 featured here has joined Bryston’s line-up along with a new BDA-2 DAC which includes a 192kHz/24-bit capable asynchronous USB input. This uses proprietary firmware running on the XMOS USB audio micro-controller platform. Bryston supplies the necessary driver software on a memory stick for Windows PC users (Macintosh supports USB Audio Class 2.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 13, 2015
Krell announced at the 2014 Las Vegas CES its intention to introduce a UPnP/DLNA-compliant network media player and the rather aptly named Connect is now available in the UK. There are in fact two versions of Krell’s Connect player, the one featured here having an optional built-in DAC with balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) analogue outputs. Needless to say it is vastly overbuilt compared with most music streamers! At its core lies a familiar BridgeCo-based StreamUnlimited platform including vTuner internet radio functionality. Massive power supplies have always been the cornerstone of Krell designs, and the Connect has an over-specified linear power supply with a 94VA toroidal transformer large enough to power a modest amplifier.

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