Network Audio Players/Servers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 16, 2019
hfncommendedThis 'music server' is rather more than it might initially appear, and you can apparently use it alone, or with another music server model, the CX. So what's that all about?

One soon comes to realise that, in the new world of computer-based music playback, nothing is quite what it seems. What's more, the terminology used to describe the products designed to make it possible seems almost wilfully imprecise.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 26, 2020
hfncommendedPacked with proprietary technology, this network bridge is the obvious partner for Aqua's own DACs. But does its appeal extend beyond a one-brand digital set-up?

Never let it be said that AQ Technologies is either a follower of fashion or a taker of the easy route: the Milan-based company behind the Aqua range always does things its own way. And while that might sometimes seem like an exercise in making life difficult for itself, the policy typically pays off in the performance, as we discovered when reviewing the Aqua Formula xHD Optologic DAC [HFN Apr '20]. Under the Nextel-finished anti-resonant aluminium casework of that model – one of three DACs in a total Aqua lineup of five products – is a galvanically-isolated resistor-ladder converter of novel design.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 23, 2020
hfncommendedBased on Arcam's 'FMJ' CDS27 CD/SACD disc spinner and network audio player, is the more affordable CDS50, complete with new DAC, the brand's best kept secret?

CD players, along with integrated amps, have long been such a mainstay of the Arcam product catalogue that it comes as something of a surprise that the CDS50 we have here, selling for £699, is now the sole silver disc spinner in its lineup. This, after all, was the company responsible, in 1986, for the first CD player both designed and manufactured in the UK, just four years after the format hit the shops and at a time when Linn and Naim were both sticking to their 'no good will come of this' guns.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 14, 2020
hfnoutstandingArcam's flagship integrated amplifier combines Class G amplification with features including network streaming, AirPlay 2 and offboard Dirac Live room correction EQ

Arcam is still headquartered in Cambridge, from where it took its original name, but the audiophile marque is now part of Samsung's global consumer electronics empire, through the latter's acquisition of Harman International, which had added Arcam to its portfolio in 2016. And amid these management-level changes, Arcam's product line has also undergone a refresh. The brand has withdrawn, for the time being, from the peripherals market, jettisoning its R series of docks and DACs.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 18, 2021
hfnedchoiceTouted as the 'world's first multi-DAC DAP', Astell&Kern's premium portable takes tweaking-on-the-move to a new pace. We run to keep up with the features on offer

Once upon a time there was just Astell&Kern, the company building its reputation on superior digital audio players (or DAPs) aimed at those for whom playing music from their phone just wasn't enough. In an era when the multifunctional pocket device is designed to take over every task you could imagine, from browser, emailer, camera, music player and – well – phone, the idea of carrying a dedicated audio device around may seem like something of an anachronism. 'An MP3 player, grandad?'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 15, 2021
hfnoutstandingNow housed in a 'chassis within a chassis', featuring an uprated USB interface and slicker Lightning OS, Auralic's G2.1 series kicks off with the Aries streaming transport

At first glance, Chinese company Auralic's range looks baffling, such is the choice of similar-looking units – and it's becoming more so with the arrival of new 'second generation' G2 models, confusingly distinguished by the addition of a '.1' suffix on its product designations. In the new lineup there's the Vega G2.1 streaming DAC, at £5999, the Sirius G2.1 upsampling processor at the same price, the £7999 Leo GX.1 master reference clock, and the product we have here, the £4199 Aries G2.1, described as a 'Wireless Streaming Transporter'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 24, 2020
hfnedchoiceThis high-end digital music machine is a comprehensive package offering ripping, storage, streaming and a built-in DAC. Is Aurender's flagship player master of all?

For many hi-fi enthusiasts, the idea of 'computer music' is still an alien one, not least because what's claimed to be a simple way of accessing music can seem to be extremely complex. After all, unless you're going to listen to everything via online streaming you need a means of ripping your existing discs, a way to tidy up the metadata tags used as signposts for indexing and search, and of course somewhere to store all the music files. And that's before you even think about how to play it.

John Bamford and Paul Miller  |  Dec 16, 2011
The first in a new breed of ‘computer transports’, WideaLab’s Aurender S10 employs a Linux-based OS and solid-state storage to render your music collection via digital outs. Aurender music servers are new to the UK. Made by WideaLab, a specialist subdivision of Korea’s Wonik Corporation, they are designed for pure audio replay of a lossless digital music library – aimed squarely at audiophiles who care passionately about sound quality. That’ll be us, then!
Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 14, 2019
hfncommendedPart of the Minnesota brand's compact Evolution One series, this 'Asynchronous Network Bridge' can feed a DAC with streamed music, or be used straight into an amp

Why can't products just be what they claim? Elsewhere in this issue you'll find a high-end network player that's also a very fine DAC, and a very affordable preamp that comes with a built-in tuner and power amplification. It's all very confusing – and then along comes Bel Canto's £1500 e.One Stream, launched at last year's Hi-Fi Show Live in Windsor, and demonstrated in an all-Bel Canto system with YG Acoustics speakers. An unassuming compact component, its 'half-width' casework impeccably finished in a choice of black or silver, the e.One Stream purports to be an 'Asynchronous Network Bridge'.

Review: Christopher Breunig, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 16, 2020
hfnoutstandingWith trickle-down tech from the flagship M1, a custom DSD DAC plus network and headphone amp options, Bricasti's M3 looks like the new go-to star of the range

With its upgraded M1 Dual Mono DAC now in 'Classic' form and selling in the UK at £9499, Bricasti has also announced a more affordable alternative, but still offering 'an incredible array of performance'. The basic M3 USB DAC is offered at £5399, but this increases to £6999 when fitted with its DNLA/UPnP-compatible network streaming card and new headphone amplifier option. The latter includes both 4-pin balanced XLR and 6.35mm single-ended jack outputs, and is available as a return-to-factory retro-fit option as the front fascia requires some reworking.

Ed Selley  |  Nov 20, 2011
Bryston presents a simplified method of enjoying computer audio Confronted with the burgeoning of computer audio, manufacturers of conventional hi-fi equipment have reacted in diverse ways. A few have buried their heads in the sand; some have made USB DACs, others hard-disk players, still others streaming network players.
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.
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: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 28, 2020
hfnoutstandingHere's a compact amp with both digital and analogue inputs, plus a full Roon-ready network audio implementation, and radically lowered price – what's not to like?

Alot can happen in three years, and while the amplifier we have here is very much the smaller sibling of the DIA-400S [HFN Oct '16], it's also boosted by the inclusion of the Danish company's NPM module, a complete network audio solution giving access to a wide range of streaming options.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 04, 2021
hfnoutstandingThe dedicated music server is in the ascendant, and every company has a different twist on the idea. In the case of Dutch company Grimm Audio, the twist is especially unusual

The continued rise of network audio has created a new game in the hi-fi world, best summed up as 'Yes, but what is it?'. You see, all sorts of network-capable devices exist right now, and it seems each of them has a somewhat different approach. For example, perhaps the best-known name in 'audiophile servers' or 'music libraries', Melco, started out by making products designed to feed network players over a network connection, paying close attention to the isolation and optimisation of the Ethernet feed. It then reinvented itself as a maker of network transports, connecting directly to a suitable DAC using a USB output, again with isolation strategies implemented.

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