Network Audio Players/Servers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 06, 2020
hfnoutstandingThis is not quite the most affordable of Lumin's network-attached players, but the D2 looks good, is sensibly priced and – thanks to a super-slick app – is a delight to use too

As the model number suggests, the £1845 Lumin D2 is the latest version of the company's affordable network audio player, the entry point for a range that started with the A1 back in 2012. And while the range has expanded, and some things have changed, much still seems the same: the D2 is compact, at just 30cm wide and a mere 6cm tall, and so light at 2.5kg that my stiffish Chord Company interconnects almost lifted it off its feet!

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: 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.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 13, 2020
hfncommendedWith multiple inputs, streaming functionality and plenty of power, this elegant and compact system promises consummate convenience and super sound. Does it deliver?

Since 1993, Lindemann has been making distinctive products, all with an accent on design and technology. Although the company has also sold loudspeakers in its 27-year history, electronics have formed the staple of the product portfolio – and it has shown a particular interest in digital technology. The D680 of 2001, for example, was the first German SACD player, while the original Musicbook was an early example of a highly advanced streaming front-end [HFN Jun '14]. Lindemann's thinking has been eerily prescient, as other brands have since scrambled to get similarly elegant so-called 'style systems' into their ranges…

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 17, 2020
hfncommendedAiming high, this flagship two-box music server uses a separate, outboard linear power supply. But is this the perfect solution to all your music storage and playback needs?

The role of the hi-fi music server is changing. As we've noted in the past, what was once no more than an optimised NAS device, designed to feed an external network music player, has now become a complete storage playback solution, designed to connect straight to a USB DAC or, in some cases, with onboard digital-to-analogue conversion straight into an amp or preamp.

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.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 13, 2020
hfncommendedWith wireless streaming, class-leading connectivity and 200W of Class D power, this sophisticated Scandinavian pre/power combination covers all the digital bases

Primare – the company that describes itself as 'the sound and vision of Scandinavia' – is also becoming rather more visible in the UK and rest of Europe thanks, in part, to the boost provided by a couple of EISA awards. Based in Sweden and founded by Danish designer and audiophile Bo Christensen, Primare has found its métier over the past few years. Its Prisma platform brought integrated wireless streaming functionality to the hi-fi world before most – and delivered it with typical Scandinavian panache. Ergonomic excellence is central to the brand's values, and this is surely a concept whose time has come.

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: 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 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.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 16, 2019
hfnoutstandingA little over half the price of the mighty H590 amp, in a slimmer design and with very similar facilities and output, this new arrival from Norway is a sure-fire bargain

They're clearly fans of the old buckled swash at Hegel: having evoked Master And Commander in announcing its £9000 H590 flagship amplifier [HFN Oct '18], the Norwegian company says it's calling the new H390 'Robin Hood'. Why? Well, it's all a matter of re-distribution of wealth, apparently, for the £4900 debutant takes much of the ability of its big brother, and makes it available to those of us of humbler means.

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  |  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  |  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  |  Jul 19, 2019
hfncommendedThis do-it-all unit, designed as the hub of a digital music system, combines ripper/server, streamer, player, DAC and more. Is this a total solution, or is it trying too hard?

Here's a simple suggestion for anyone thinking of moving from 'physical media' to computer-stored music, or at least adding a collection of files to their system: buy the most complex piece of equipment you can find. Yes, that may seem like some kind of lunacy for the beginner in ripping, serving and streaming, but then the £5099 Novafidelity X45Pro, the flagship of its manufacturer's range, will do everything you could ever think of in the world of digital audio – and then some.

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