Network Audio Players/Servers

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Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 23, 2021
hfnoutstandingThis flagship, fully balanced preamplifier comes with Bryston's BDA-3-inspired DAC plus updated BDP streaming platform and full network control. It's busier than it looks!

There's so much functionality under the bonnet of Bryston's BR-20 that you might wonder where to start. I would suggest the manual – this £7500 networked USB DAC/preamplifier isn't, it must be said, the most instantly intuitive of system hubs I've ever auditioned. But the effort is worth it though, because what the BR-20 can do, and how it does it, is quite special.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 07, 2021
hfnoutstandingNamed after founder Prof. Gordon Edge, Cambridge Audio's flagship series is reinforced by the new 'M' monoblock amp. With the NQ Streamer, does this combo have an edge?

Nothing if not ambitious, Cambridge Audio's Edge series first broke cover three years back as part of the company's 50th anniversary celebrations. It took its name from Gordon Edge, one of the company's founders and the brains behind its first product, the P40 amplifier. Designed to take on the best in high-end audio, these Edge separates also serve as 'halo' products for the company's lower-tier ranges.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 16, 2021
hfnoutstandingThis London-based company may be a relative latecomer to the all-in-one streaming system market, but its debut models have style a-plenty – and performance to match

Given Cambridge Audio's track record in digital audio, it is perhaps a little surprising it's taken the company so long to enter the network systems arena. It was an early developer of add-on DACs in 1994 [see HFN Jun '21] and has been making streaming components for a good while, even going to the lengths of developing its own network audio hardware. The Cambridge catalogue currently caters for 'computer audio' enthusiasts with the entry-level £169 DacMagic 100 right up to the £4499 Edge NQ network preamp.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 13, 2021
hfnoutstandingThe latest additions to Chord Electronics' range don't immediately give up the secrets of what they do – but dig deeper, and you'll find they're intriguing digital components

There are times when one might think Kent-based Chord Electronics is being wilfully abstruse in its selection of model designations. After all, its flagship DAC is called DAVE [HFN Apr '16], and its pocket-sized DAC/player combination is the Mojo [HFN Jan '16] and Poly. Then there's the portable Hugo DAC/headphone amp, now in both Hugo 2 [HFN Aug '18] and less-portable Hugo TT (for 'tabletop') versions [HFN Dec '15], to which the company has now added two extra units, named 2go and 2yu.

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.

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  |  Nov 16, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe new entry-level model in the Norwegian company's amp range is a sensible mix of facilities and performance – or at least it would be, if the sound wasn't sensational!

Oslo-based Hegel has been enjoying something of a purple patch of late: not content with raising eyebrows with the sheer performance of its flagship H590 integrated amplifier [HFN Oct '18], it went on to get dangerously near that level with the much more affordable H390 model [HFN Aug '19], offering almost all of big brother's sound quality for not much more than half the price. Our HFN review concluded that it was 'sensationally good value, with a clean, powerful sound and bags of musicality, not to mention exceptional flexibility including onboard network streaming'. Unsurprisingly, it won the 2019-20 EISA Award for 'Best High-End Amplifier'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngThe Norwegian brand’s latest amp is not just its most powerful integrated, but comes complete with network audio capability. Is this the ultimate one-box amp solution?

Obviously not afraid of a spot of (Russell?) crowing, Oslo-based Hegel describes its new Reference H590 integrated amp, just going on sale at £9000, as ‘Master and Commander’. Apparently it’s ‘A master at musicality’ and ‘The commander of any set of speakers’. Mind you, you might be tempted to forgive the company for its exuberance – after all, the new arrival is something of a monster, standing an AV-receiver-challenging 17.1cm tall, tipping the scales at 22kg and delivering over 300W per channel. Well, 301W a side actually, according to Hegel, making it at least 50% more powerful than its previous top integrated, the H360.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 13, 2021
hfncommendedPowered by in-house hardware and software engineering from Korea's Citech group, the HiFi Rose brand combines slick visuals with the promise of state-of-the-art sound

One of the great benefits of the rise of streaming – be it network or online – is the flexibility it gives manufacturers to create just about any product they like. There are some basic formats, including the all-in-ones like the Naim Uniti [HFN Nov '17], NAD M-Series [HFN Aug '20] and the new Cambridge Audio Evo. There are also streaming amps and standalone playback components (network players or DACs), but within those parameters the engineers and designers have no shortage of freedom to create network audio devices in just about any shape they want…

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 25, 2022
hfncommendedKorea's Citech group is ploughing its considerable in-house hardware and software resource into a series of network-attached players. Here's its most compact all-in-one

One of the great advantages offered by network-capable audio hardware is that, once a platform has been designed, it can be rolled out across a number of products, re-purposed and scaled depending on the target market. We've seen the same from brands as diverse as AVM [HFN Dec '21], Cambridge Audio [HFN Nov '21] and Naim [HFN Aug '21], and now recent arrival HiFi Rose is following the same path with high-end players designed to be used in existing systems all the way through to one-box soundbar set-ups.

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.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 13, 2015
Krell announced at the 2014 Las Vegas CES its intention to introduce a UPnP/DLNA-compliant network media player and the rather aptly named Connect is now available in the UK. There are in fact two versions of Krell’s Connect player, the one featured here having an optional built-in DAC with balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) analogue outputs. Needless to say it is vastly overbuilt compared with most music streamers! At its core lies a familiar BridgeCo-based StreamUnlimited platform including vTuner internet radio functionality. Massive power supplies have always been the cornerstone of Krell designs, and the Connect has an over-specified linear power supply with a 94VA toroidal transformer large enough to power a modest amplifier.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 14, 2015
Lindemann audiotechnik, a boutique brand from Germany, has focused on high-end music replay for the past 20 years. It was one of the world’s first high-end brands to offer an outboard USB-to-S/PDIF converter for connecting a computer to a DAC. And it was also quick off the mark to make a USB-equipped DAC. Identifying a new trend for ‘downsizing’ complicated audio rigs, it has developed a range of four midi-sized – if expensive – products dubbed Musicbook.

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