• Music Servers

    by Published on 09-30-2016 09:18 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Digital to Analog Converter,
    4. Disk Storage,
    5. Music Servers,
    6. Software,
    7. Wireless,
    8. USB Interface,
    9. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    10. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    11. UPnP / DLNA
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    Not that long ago, when I visited audio dealers around the world, many of them told me they were selling Sonos systems in more volume than any other product. In fact the numbers weren't even close, Sonos was flying out the door. The same dealers also told me they wished they had a product that was better than Sonos. A product that supported high resolution audio and was built for customers with a discerning ear for sound quality. AURALiC's first product to fill this void was the original ARIES. Priced at $1,599, the ARIES was definitely a product much better than anything Sonos had released, but it was a bit too expensive for many music aficionados. In an effort to bring more people into this wonderful HiFi hobby and to fill the gap between the mass market Sonos system and the class market ARIES, AURALiC released its ARIES MINI. Rather than pricing the MINI somewhere in between Sonos and the original ARIES, AURALiC managed to deliver a very high quality product for right around $500 (depending on included streaming service bundles). In addition to releasing the ARIES MINI, AURALiC accelerated development of its Lightning DS iOS application and has continued to release feature enhancing firmware upgrades to all AIRES series hardware devices. Looking at ARIES, ARIES LE, ARIES MINI, and Lightning DS all together, there's no question AURALiC has created a terrific ecosystem capable of replacing or improving any Sonos system.

    I've used the ARIES MINI since the first pre-production unit was sent here about a year ago. Sure, I really like to use products thoroughly before reviewing them, but an entire year would be overkill. The reason I haven't published a review of the MINI, like seemingly every other publication on the planet, is that I kept hearing about new features, enhancements, and app upgrades. All of these sounded fantastic and I wanted to write about something more than the other guys. I waited, and waited, and waited until finally firmware version 4.0 was released to the public. This week, it was time to put the newly upgraded MINI through the wringer and to write up the review. ...
    by Published on 09-14-2016 03:25 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital Interface Converter,
    3. Music Servers,
    4. Wireless,
    5. Music Hub / Controller,
    6. USB Interface,
    7. UPnP / DLNA,
    8. RoonReady
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    O Canada ... Computer Audiophile readers have heard plenty about Canada lately. Starting with the terrific Peachtree Audio nova150, made in Canada, followed by the wonderful Bryston BDA-3, made in Canada, and now the exaSound PlayPoint, also designed and manufactured in Canada. As my mom used to say, while I was playing hockey against great Canadian teams as a kid, "There must be something in the water up there." Anyway, Canada's exaSound Audio Design is a company that's dedicated to solid engineering and leading edge technology. exaSound has lead the pack with many "world's first" implementations, such as a multi-channel asynchronous USB to I2S interface capable of supporting multichannel DXD at 352.8kHz/32bit, a USB to I2S interface supporting 2-channel DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DSD512 and PCM 384kHz/32bit, an 8-channel DXD 384kHz/32bit consumer-oriented DAC, a high-end DACs (both two-channel and multi-channel) capable of achieving DSD256 playback at sampling rate of 11.2896 MHz and 12.288 MHz. Keep in mind that a few of these innovations date back to 2011, when many manufacturers were still trying to support 24 bit / 192 kHz audio, and thought DSD was only something obtainable from a physical SACD disc. The exaSound PlayPoint doesn't feature any world's first features, but it's still way ahead of much of the competition. In fact, I'm willing to bet that the exaSound team would have been the first to offer a RoonReady product if only they had access to the software. I remember talking to George from exaSound, who was extremely eager to get going on a Roon implementation, long before most companies had even heard of Roon. Needless to say, the PlayPoint supports the latest and greatest features and is an excellent companion to the current lineup of exaSound DACs. ...
    by Published on 06-22-2016 01:36 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Music Servers,
    3. USB Interface
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    Over the last several years Korea's SOtM has continued to gain traction in the HiFi world. More recently, Switzerland's Highend-AudioPC has become a major player in the high end computer audio market with its Audiophile Optimizer product. It seemed like a match made in audio heaven, that I couldn't resist, when the two companies paired up to produce the sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition music server. Add to that the SOtM sPS-1000 linear power supply and Roon from Roon Labs, and I was off to the audio races. But, I wasn’t simply looking for a good solution that I could use, I was looking for a solution that combined many items from which a typical audiophile might shy away, namely a custom computer, add-on USB card, custom internal clock, Windows Server software, and Audiophile Optimizer (that ships with a sixty page user manual by itself). The sMS-1000SQ WE ships with all of the above pre-installed. I can already hear many members of the Computer Audiophile Community grumbling because they have recently assembled all the parts to build a custom computer and read the entire AO manual in preparation for a challenging and time consuming installation process, when maybe they should have considered purchasing the SOtM sMS-1000SQ Windows Edition. ...
    by Published on 06-25-2015 04:31 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Music Servers,
    3. Network Audio,
    4. USB Interface
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    I've been using Aurender music servers for several years. In 2011 I reviewed the Aurender S10 and in 2014 I reviewed the flagship W20 model. I've watched the company closely over the years, including traveling to its headquarters in Seoul, Korea in 2013. During this time Aurender has made substantial improvements to both its hardware and software. Features that used to be unique have become commonplace and no longer set Aurender apart from the crowd. Continuing to evolve and lead has meant integrating features like the TIDAL streaming services at a very high level and releasing the free product update to its customers quickly. I will not be surprised if Aurender updates its products to support Roon as an audio endpoint (RoonSpeakers) soon after Roon Labs releases its software development kit (SDK). In addition the company has recently expanded its line of server products to include the X series, globally launched in 2014, and N series. Prices for Aurender's entire line range from the entry level N100 at $2,499 to the pièce de résistance W20 at over $17,000. No matter what Aurender hardware one uses, the software is the same. Customers who buy into Aurender at the entry level receive the same software as those using the top-of-the-line. With very few exceptions for items requiring AES or S/PDIF output the software functionality is identical. Over the last few weeks I've been using the Aurender N100H with my current reference system. The sound quality from this system has been stellar as has the entire experience. The new Aurender Media Manager (AMM) application, updated iOS app, and the N100H hardware itself combine to make a very solid solution that touches all the bases for many music aficionados and audiophiles alike. ...
    by Published on 04-01-2014 05:10 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Music Servers
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    Aurender music servers have been part of my digital playback arsenal since 2011. I was so impressed by the Aurender S10 that I placed it on my CASH List and named it the 2011 Product of the Year. The S10 was the first music server I'd seen that was built like a high end audio component with solid engineering on the inside and stellar attention to detail on the outside. The S10 was IT. However, a couple colleagues of mine thought the S10 was a good start, but there was much room for improvement. It turns out my colleagues were correct. Not long after the S10 hit dealer showrooms the Aurender team completed a state of the art listening room and went to work on something better than the S10. The product that emerged from this work was the flagship Aurender W20. The W20 is not an upgraded S10. The only critical component shared by the two models are the oven-controlled crystal oscillators (OCXO). Based on several months of listening, testing, and comparing the W20 to all other servers I've used, I conclude the Aurender W20 is unequivocally the pièce de résistance of high end music servers.
    ...
    by Published on 01-22-2013 03:04 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. Music Servers,
    4. Preamp
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    The MAN301 is an ambitious attempt by Weiss Engineering to create a music server capable of numerous digital and analog configurations and a totally unique user experience through its own custom iPad application. I applaud Weiss Engineering’s ambition and willingness to chart its own course in music server design rather than follow the herd. The MAN301’s ability to pull music from an unlimited amount of storage via Ethernet is great for music aficionados with gigantic multi-terabyte music collections. Weiss’ inclusion of its award winning DAC inside the MAN301 is also terrific for audiophiles looking to combine feature sets or reduce the number of boxes in their listening environments. In typical Weiss fashion the MAN301 features coarse analog and fine digital volume control, audio routing from digital in to digital out, digital in to analog out, Ethernet in to analog out, and many other configurations on several interfaces like RCA, XLR, S/PDIF, USB, and FireWire. As expected the Daniel Weiss designed audio features of the MAN301 are top notch. However the custom iPad application and music server functionality need a bit more fine tuning to make the product a competitor with the best solutions available. Fortunately in the several months since I received the MAN301 I updated its software a few times and was very pleased by the progress Weiss Engineering has made toward better features and improved functionality of existing features. Overall the Weiss Engineering MAN301 sounds very good and its functionality will only improve with time. ...
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