Network Audio Players/Servers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 28, 2023
hfncommendedKorea's Citech group continues apace with yet another 'full colour widescreen' offering from its HiFi Rose brand – this time with an updated network-attached media hub

ARose by any other name? As has happened in the past, Korean manufacturer HiFi Rose has launched a new version of an existing model – in this case its RS250 network player – with worthy specification changes and a suffix to set the two apart. But there's a mild inconsistency here, for when the company upgraded the RS150 [HFN Jun '21] to the current version, due to a DAC chip change forced upon the company by the 2020 fire at AKM's semiconductor plant in Japan, it became the RS150(B), selling for £3899, but the revised RS250 is now the £2349 RS250A, available in either silver or black finishes.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 09, 2023
hfnoutstandingCombining the network streaming capability of the RS150 flagship with the GAN-FET Class D amplification of the RS180, the RS520 aims to be the 'all-in-one' for everyone

Another smart move from the Korean tech specialist? That certainly seems to be the case with the latest arrival from Seoul-based HiFi Rose, which has rapidly established itself as a major player in the network audio/video market with a string of excellent streaming players. Having taken what looked like an abrupt turn with the launch of its bonkers-styled – but great-sounding – RA180 integrated amplifier [HFN Jul '22], it's now delivering on the promises made by the company's Sean Kim, interviewed for that review. We're yet to see the simpler, more affordable RA280 integrated amp, but here's the company's all-in-one streaming amp, the RS520.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 26, 2023
hfnoutstandingNow benefitting from the latest updates to Auralic's Lightning streaming platform, the 'starter' Altair DAC also features a raft of mechanical and detailed design improvements

Although Auralic (promoted as AURALiC) only launched the Altair G1 in 2020, the Chinese brand already has its G1.1 update available. It appears together with the Aries G1.1 as the new and more affordable options within their respective tiers, with the Altair and Aries G2.1 [HFN Oct '21 & Feb '21] being the more expensive models. However, as all Auralic products share a very similar chassis design and carry names that aren't very descriptive, it's sometimes difficult to discern which box does what.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 24, 2023
hfnoutstandingAVM's flagship all-in-one network/CD music system combines cool-running power with huge flexibility while the top 'Black Edition' features a custom finish and selected tubes

Nowadays there's a wealth of all-in-one units available but AVM was one of the brands to spot the trend early on. That partly explains why, even in an industry that loves extensive model ranges, the company has an impressively large product offering – including five streaming receiver solutions. And there's little concession to price in this range, so the top-of-the-line £14,950 Ovation CS 8.3 model boasts ample power reserves, a full range of streaming capabilities and a slot-loading CD player.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 17, 2022
hfnoutstandingMatrix Audio's Element X2 introduces design, control and input upgrades to the X's network DAC/headphone amp and preamp. All this and a colour touchscreen to boot

At first glance, one might wonder why Matrix Audio felt any need to update its Element X network DAC [HFN Jan '21], the latter receiving our 'Outstanding Product' tag at £2795. However, look at this new X2 model and – while it's still conceptually the same, with a broad retention of technology from the ESS ES9038PRO DAC to the Crystek clock – it's clear much has also changed.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 14, 2022
hfnoutstandingA Serbian brand based in Chicago packs a streamer, DAC and headphone amplifier into three bijou cases, topped off with a bespoke outboard PSU. We lend an ear, man

Although UK readers might not recognise the EarMen moniker, it's certainly not a newcomer to the world of hi-fi. Its back story is quite convoluted, for although EarMen is based in Chicago, it's funded by the owner of Serbia's Auris Audio, Milomir Trosic, and most products are produced in the same Serbian factory. Auris is aimed at the premium market, with products including the Euterpe and the Nirvana – both headphone amplifiers lavishly adorned in wood and even leather – plus a neat line of luxurious-looking tube amps and even some turntables on offer.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 22, 2022
hfncommendedNow in mkII guise, Lindemann's network-attached DAC and analogue preamp sees a raft of internal updates and the promise of 'production secured for upcoming years'

Look at the latest iteration of Lindemann's network music player, the £3450 Musicbook Source II, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that nothing much has changed [HFN Jun '20]. This is still a compact unit, just 28cm wide and a mere 6.3cm tall, with nothing much on show save a power/standby button sunk into one end of the top-plate and an edge-mounted volume control, with a push-to-mute function, at the other.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 11, 2022
hfnoutstandingDescribed as the company's most versatile digital player to date, Lumin's P1 is an unashamedly high-end network audio solution. But can it be all things to all users?

As is so often the case with network audio products, the salient question concerning the Lumin P1, yours for £8495 in a choice of silver or anodised satin black sculptural milled-from-solid casework, is what it is exactly. The company can help with that, suggesting it can be just about anything you want: a network player, a DAC, a preamp (complete with analogue inputs as well as the digital array), or all three.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 28, 2022
hfnoutstandingIn raw form this is a digital streamer/network bridge governed by the Conductor app, but add optional SSD storage and the N200 becomes a fully-fledged music library

Music storage: it can be a thorny subject, not least because those network products offering internal capacity for your library tend either to have fixed, non-expandable storage, or offer the option of dealer-installed drives. The cost of such storage is usually high, too – okay, not 'adding capacity at time of ordering your new Apple computer high', where an extra Terabyte can cost you £400, but still at prices to have you looking at HDDs on the likes of Amazon and scratching your head.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 09, 2022
hfncommendedThe first SACD player from French audio artisans, Kalista, is also this spin-off brand's most comprehensive digital hub to date, with wired/wireless network streaming

Having emerged from French manufacturer Métronome Technologie with its inaugural model in 2003 – think Citroën spawning DS, or Seat's Cupra line – Kalista now has a growing range of DreamPlay products. This includes the £21,000 Kalista STREAM – described as 'The only streamer on the market that combines perfect functionality with exceptional looks' – and a turntable, the £44,000 Twenty-Twenty.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 30, 2022
hfnoutstandingThe compact but comprehensively-equipped Matrix Audio digital front-ends are distinguished by chipset and features. We look at the flagship 'headphone-free' DAC

For anyone still labouring under the misapprehension that Chinese-made hi-fi means cheap and cheerful alternatives to the big-name brands, it's time for an eye-opener. In practice, not only are quite a few of those big names having their products made in China, but its home-grown brands are upping their game and making inroads into markets once dominated by Western and Japanese names. A case in point is the Matrix Audio X-Sabre 3 we have here, following on from the X-Sabre Pro DAC [HFN Nov '17], Element X [HFN Jan '21] and more recently the Mini-i Pro 3 [HFN Feb 22].

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 23, 2022
hfnoutstandingComputer giant Buffalo's high-end audio brand, Melco, has an updated two-box flagship with enhancements debuted in the limited-edition N10 anniversary edition

There are two distinct Melco families: the conventionally-sized N1 models, 430mm wide, and the half-width, 215mm, N10 series, of which the new N10/2 models, starting from £6999 for the N10/2-H50 and rising to £8999 for the N10/2-S38 flagship we have here, are the latest iteration. Why the two prices? In a word, storage: the N10/2-H50 packs 5TB of conventional HDD, while the -S38 includes 3.84TB of (solid-state) SSD.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 16, 2022
hfnoutstandingWhile Marantz's new 40 series shares its industrial design with the Class D Model 30, its core networking and Class A/B amp technology borrows from an earlier generation

By all accounts stylish, network-attached amps, including Cambridge Audio's Evo 150 [HFN Nov '21] or the compact NAD M10 and C 700 [HFN Jun '19 & Feb '22], are carving themselves a successful niche. So it's not surprising that Sound United, parent of Marantz, is making its own pitch. Marantz traditionalists needn't fret, however, for while the new £2199 Model 40n includes high-res wired/wireless streaming, USB and HDMI ARC inputs, the chassis is properly hi-fi-sized and the aesthetics are pure 'Marantz'.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 28, 2022
hfncommendedThe most comprehensively-equipped component of Roksan's Attessa quartet combines phono, line and digital inputs with a BluOS streaming platform and beefy amplifier

So it turns out that network amplifiers built around BluOS streaming technology are like buses. No sooner had we waved goodbye to the £1299 NAD C 700 [HFN Feb '22], then up popped the Attessa Streaming Amplifier from Roksan, a little more expensive at £1495 but cut from the same just-add-speakers cloth. This joins a competitive market alongside not only NAD's device but Bluesound's £850 BluOS-based Powernode, plus other streaming integrateds including Cambridge Audio's Evo 75 and Audiolab's Omnia. Handy for Roksan, then, that it has a lot going for it.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 26, 2022
hfncommendedWith powerful battery pack and styling inspired by the Mars rover, the CA1000 aims to squeeze the performance of a full-sized 'digital' headphone amp into a portable player

The new Astell&Kern ACRO CA1000 desktop player/DAC/headphone amplifier, selling for £1999, has a raft of functionality built-in – and yet I'm still not quite sure who it's for… Of course, this is far from the first step beyond its core expertise in high-quality pocket music players taken by the company. After all, it's already given us the extraordinary AK500 stack system [HFN Apr '15], active speakers and the chunky ACRO L1000, its first desktop headphone amp/DAC.

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