Melco N10/2-S38 Network Audio Library Page 2

So, yes, the Melco concept isn't cheap, especially in this flagship iteration, but there's a strong sense of all the hard work having been done for the listener in order to provide a seamless, simple means of accessing music.

sqnote Without Prejudice
I've mentioned previously where I stand on the use of Melco players as a network source for my Naim ND555/555PS player [HFN Apr '19] – excellent but with no clear advantage over connecting my current NAS music library via inexpensive fibre optic converters. So, for the purposes of this test I stuck to using the N10/2 as a source for a selection of USB DACs, from the Matrix Audio X-Sabre 3 [p66] down to the relatively affordable iFi Audio NEO iDSD [HFN Mar '21] and the Chord Electronics Mojo 2 [p70], both of which have become mainstays of my desktop setup.

Without prejudging what follows, I have to say that even with the £799 iFi Audio and £450 Chord DACs, the N10/2 sounds spectacular. Yes, the combination of this £8999 player and a £450 pocket-sized DAC, however unlikely it may seem, proves a killer main-system set-up!

Playing the gloriously detailed Lamento set by mezzo Marianne Beatte Kielland and baroque ensemble Oslo Circles [Lawo LWC1226; DXD], the Melco/Chord combination delivers a sound dripping with the ambience of the church recording venue. The soloist and period instruments are placed persuasively before the listener – it's a superbly immersive audio experience as remarkable for its mournfully mellifluous tonality as it is for the precision with which the music is revealed. The voice is simply luminous, hanging in space, while the delicate accompaniment fills the soundstage with atmosphere.


Melco offers network and direct player Ethernet connections from the player [upper] plus two USB-A ports, one to drive a USB DAC and one to connect an (expansion) USB HDD. The 5-pin XLR carries 5/12V DC from the PSU [lower]

Lifting the mood a little with pianist Jan Lisiecki's Night Music recital [DG 4862069; 48kHz/24-bit], that precise but atmospheric rendition suits perfectly the reading of Mozart's celebrated variations on 'Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman'. The crisp – and appropriately twinkling – playing benefits from the speed and definition, while both the weight of Lisiecki's instrument and way the lower octaves resonate in the lively acoustic are beautifully conveyed.

Ocean Breeze
That resolution is just as apparent in the 192kHz/24-bit remaster of Eric Clapton's 1973 461 Ocean Boulevard album [Polydor], when the Melco/Chord pairing slams into the opening 'Motherless Children' with all guns blazing before settling back into the lushness of 'Give Me Strength' and the harmonies of 'Let It Grow'. Arguably Clapton's finest solo work, and unmatched almost four decades on, it sounds magnificent start to finish via this unlikely combination, from the deep, funky bass of Carl Radle to Yvonne Elliman's silky vocals.

Melco's two-box N/10 also works supremely well with Matrix Audio's X-Sabre 3 DAC – though Chord's Mojo 2 is uncannily close in performance – when it comes to the big, dramatic stuff, such as the Bergen Philharmonic/Gardner recording of Britten's Peter Grimes [Chandos CHAN5250W, 96kHz/24-bit]. Here it crashes out all the fury of the famous 'Storm' interlude without losing track of any of the instrumental textures, and at the same time conveying the uneasy atmosphere of the fishing village and its outcast, culminating in its bleak, desolate finale.

Out Of This World
This recording is possessed of breathtaking dynamics and tiny nuances in equal measure, and this combination reveals them all. It does the same with the skill of both scoring and recording in (deep breath) Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds [Columbia/Sony 0960005000; DSD64] now knocking on the door of its 45th birthday, but still something of a sonic marvel, especially on SACD.

Even with Wayne's 2000 remixes album, ULLAdubULLA [Columbia 4963902000], which cranks up the drama (and the bass!), the N/10 and partner DACs deliver all the weight and detail one could want, creating an absolute riot of samples and thumping rhythms.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
It's a costly way to feed a USB DAC, and the onboard storage capacity may be limiting for those with huge libraries, but the N10/2 goes about its task so convincingly, even wringing remarkable results from very affordable digital ancillaries, that it's hard to argue with the value it brings to 'digital' systems. This, plus its slick interface and clever metadata handling, makes it a sophisticated digital front-end.

Buffalo Technology
Audiophile Digital Music Masters Ltd, UK
01252 784525