Network Audio Players/Servers

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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  |  Aug 16, 2019
hfnoutstandingThe model name may be a mouthful, but this new arrival from the Japanese music server specialist aims high with a separate linear PSU. Are two boxes better than one?

By now the Melco brand is very well-established in the 'computer audio' arena, with a range of fairly similar-looking slimline server devices designed to feed music to network players, or directly to a DAC via a dedicated USB output. However, the offering isn't as rare as once it was, with rivals now providing alternatives to multifunction NAS units, and also claiming audiophile credentials.

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: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 23, 2020
hfnedchoiceOne of a growing choice of 'audiophile' network switches, this one comes from Digital Music Library specialist Melco. Can this work magic in any networked system?

When Japanese-based Melco launched its first 'Digital Music Library' [HFN Feb '15], it more or less started a trend for audiophile music storage devices, and these days there's no shortage of rivals out there, all claiming to deliver the best possible sound for your network audio. However, its first 'Audiophile Dataswitch' enters a somewhat different arena, where it's not exactly a pioneer.

Keith Howard and Paul Miller  |  Jun 08, 2011
A fairly costly system with certain limitations but the bee’s-knees intuitive touchscreen interface is a plus, and for some this will be the ideal home music distribution solution. When Meridian announced, to some surprise, that it had bought Sooloos in late 2008, it was a demonstration that the UK’s premier exponent of digital audio technology had recognised the burgeoning importance of computer audio, conceded that it was somewhat behind the game, and concluded that the best way to fast-track a move into this sphere was to buy what was, and remains, widely recognised as the best music server software available.
Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 24, 2020
hfnoutstandingAdding Roon-ready capability to its highly customised DAC has given this curiously-named Dutch company another highly intriguing device. Nothing fishy here!

For an insight into the digital audio product we have before us, the £8999 Mola-Mola Tambaqui, I turn to no less an authority than biologist, author and TV presenter Jeremy Wade, best-known for his series River Monsters and Dark Waters, in which he goes in search of – and catches – some of the world's largest and most predatory fish.

Ed Selley  |  Nov 20, 2011
A clever combination of streamer, DAC and pre-amp that ought to win many converts. What is the CLiC? To describe it as a digital preamp, or a streamer, does not do it full justice. Better to think of it as a unit which selects internet radio, and music files from a variety of sources – including wired and wireless networks and data stores, Red Book CD players and even analogue.
Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 11, 2020
hfnoutstandingAdding full network connectivity to Mytek's Brooklyn DAC+ beefs up an already comprehensive feature set. Don't be fooled by its size – this is a pocket rocket!

Although the New York-based Mytek company has traditionally named its products after the city's landmarks, it has really nailed the title of its latest offering – the £2500 EISA Award-winning Brooklyn Bridge. After all, to describe this all-in-one preamp, streaming network player, DAC and headphone amplifier as 'versatile' or 'useful' would be something of an understatement. Rather like its namesake, which replaced multiple ferry services across the East River in 1883 to provide a single solution that made life easier for everyone.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 25, 2022
hfnoutstandingNAD remains a key partner in the BluOS wireless ecosphere and the C 700 is its most streamlined – read affordable and flexible – all-in-one network player/amplifier yet

With its latest 'just add speakers' hi-fi solution, Canadian manufacturer NAD's intentions are crystal-clear. Take the form factor and functionality of its award-winning Masters M10 BluOS-integrated amplifier [HFN Jun '19] but rethink the specification in order to nearly cut the asking price in half. This isn't a surprising move – at £1299, the C 700 is the 'mainstream' all-in-one system that has been begging to be built.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 05, 2019
hfnoutstandingAs a major partner in the BluOS project, it makes sense for NAD to have its own all-in-one network player, and it's aiming very high with this fully-loaded, fine-sounding system

No-one could ever accuse NAD of lacking ambition. Alongside its acclaimed core range, on which the company has built its reputation over the past four decades, it also has its Masters series of high-end components, several of which have been reviewed favourably in these pages in the past, including the EISA Award-winning M32 integrated amp – sorry, 'DirectDigital DAC/Amplifier' – [HFN Jul '18].

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 07, 2020
hfnoutstandingEver at the cutting edge of both analogue and digital Class D amplification, NAD's new M33 is the first to utilise Purifi's groundbreaking modules. All this and streaming too...

Launched last year, NAD's M10 all-in-one streaming system [HFN Jun '19] was remarkable in two ways. One was that this compact 'just add speakers' package was actually part of the brand's elite Masters Series, more usually populated by high-end DACs and amplifiers, while the other was that this little system, selling for around £2000, was exceptionally good, receiving a glowing review in HFN before going on to win a 2019-20 EISA award as Best Smart Amplifier.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 11, 2019
hfnoutstandingThe new flagship player network player from Naim ups the ante – not to mention the price – from the company's previous range. Is the performance elevated, too?

The ND 555, sitting at the top of Naim's latest three-strong network player/streamer/call-it-what-you-will range at £12,999, isn't a direct replacement for the 'old' NDS. Yes, that player is now discontinued, but note I said the ND 555 isn't a 'direct' replacement – after all, the new model is more than twice the price of its forebear...

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: Andrew Everard, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 04, 2023
hfnoutstandingThe second phase of Naim's 'New Classics' launch brings a new streamer, a preamp and monoblock power amps, all in redesigned slender casework. Are they true 'classics'?

At times of late, it seems Salisbury's Naim Audio is wilfully courting controversy. It's been causing ripples with the brand's faithful fans ever since it launched its all-in-one Mu-so systems and second-generation Uniti products. It wasn't that these arrivals were on a mission to make hi-fi simpler for all, eschewing the tweakery and 'black magic' once suggested as a prerequisite for realising its true potential – no, what broke the usually calm surface was the fact the Naim logo, for decades lit in green, had turned white. Cue Naim aficionados fanning themselves like Edwardian grandes dames with a fit of the vapours.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 16, 2021
hfnoutstandingThe evergreen Uniti Atom all-in-one platform, complete with custom streaming solution, is adapted to service the needs of the most demanding headphone users

Never let it be said the product name isn't long enough – in the 12 years since Naim launched its network audio all-in-one, to which the buyer need only add speakers, it's grown from the simple NaimUniti of the initial model, all the way to this, the £2399 Naim Audio Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. And yet here, less is more.

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