Novafidelity X45Pro Digital Media Player

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.

What's more, it manages to be suitably futureproof, with access to a wide range of music services and also extended file-handling, but then its manufacturer has been doing this ripping and serving thing for a good while now, and shows every sign of knowing what it's doing.

Audio Computer
Novafidelity is a brand of Korean company Novatron, which first appeared on these shores with ripper/servers under the name of Cocktail Audio. Indeed, the X45Pro still fires up with a cocktail glass graphic on its large, crisp colour display, before preparing itself for use. This, after all, is basically an audio computer – it runs on a 1GHz Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9 processor – and so takes a little while to boot up. It's fast enough not to be tiresome, but I'd suggest keeping it up and running for instant use.

At the entry-level of the Novafidelity range, you can spend as little as £689 for the little X14, and get almost all the X45Pro's basic functionality, but as you move up through the range you get enhanced capability and audiophile engineering, albeit with some forks in the road on the way. For example, the 'basic' version of the X45 will set you back £2149, while the next model up is the £3999 X50D, which is a 'pure digital' model with no onboard DACs. The range also offers some ancillary models, such as the £649 N15D network adapter/USB DAC, and a DAC/headphone amp, the £2095 HA500H.


Storage Solutions
All the company's ripper/streamer units have one thing in common: the basic price you see excludes any internal storage, enabling the consumer to either buy the unit 'as is' and add their own hard drive, or purchase it with a choice of drives installed. Given that the add-on prices for drives range from £140 for a 2TB HDD to £300 for an 8TB HDD, and £190 for a 500GB SSD through to £515 for a 2TB SSD, I'd suggest you buy the machine sans drive and install your own. It's very easy, thanks to a slide-out caddy on the rear panel, and will take a matter of minutes to do, after which the X45Pro will format the drive and it's ready for use.

That done, ripping discs is just a matter of going into the menus and setting up the copying, including choosing the file format, then slipping the disc into the slot-loading CD transport. It'll be ripped and then ejected, and you can move on to the next. You can also copy files from USB memory sticks or hard drives to the internal storage, for which three USB host ports are provided – two on the rear and one on the back.

It's sensible to use one of these USB ports to connect a back-up drive, to which the X45Pro will automatically copy everything currently on its internal storage. But if you already have a NAS (Network Attached Storage) containing music, or just a collection of music on your home computer, the X45Pro can act as UPnP client to play that content, or indeed as a server to allow its own content to be streamed to external players.

But that's just the start of what this unit can do. It can also act as a DAC, either via conventional digital inputs or with a USB connection to a computer, enabling it to handle content in PCM-based audio at up to 768kHz/32-bit and DSD up to DSD512. It can link to a Tidal account to access streamed content, including MQA-encoded Masters files, and to a Highresaudio account for direct downloads, as well as having a built-in Internet radio tuner and even FM/DAB capability for terrestrial wireless. Oh and it works with Spotify, Napster, Qobuz, Amazon Music and more, and is also Roon-ready.

And then – yes, there's more! – it can also record from analogue sources, having one set of line-ins and even a MM phono stage, while to say that outputs are provided on a range of connections is something of an understatement. As well as both balanced XLRs and unbalanced RCAs, which can be set at fixed level or controlled via the volume knob on the front, there's a choice of digital outputs on coaxial, optical and AES/EBU (to match the same array on the input side).

Gyeonggido, South Korea
Supplied by: SCV Distribution, UK
03301 222 500