Network Audio Players/Servers

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Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 20, 2024
hfnoutstandingComplete with a new streaming module, T+A's latest network-attached DAC/preamp is the perfect partner for its PA 3100 HV integrated and A 3000 HV power amplifiers

Tipping the scales at a hefty 26kg, measuring a portly 46cm deep and 17cm tall, and selling for £14,900, T+A's PSD 3100 HV appears every inch the flagship DAC/streamer/preamp. Except that it isn't – that accolade is reserved for the German brand's SDV 3100 HV [HFN Oct '19], which has been deemed its 'reference' model since its arrival in 2019 and remains available for £26,040.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 13, 2024
hfnoutstandingBuilding on the earlier D2 platform, Lumin's equally compact D3 model features a new processor, new DAC, LeedH volume control and support for increased file sample rates

It's not only loudspeaker brands playing the trickle-down technology game. Lumin's D3, its new entry-level streaming DAC, borrows liberally from the Hong Kong manufacturer's costlier network hardware, utilising elements both inside and out to effect a comprehensive upgrade on the previous D2 [HFN Jul '20]. Its maker says the D3 'brings the audiophile potential of music streaming within everyone's reach', and while the £2195 price tag makes that somewhat debatable, it certainly has plenty of appeal.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 15, 2024
hfnoutstandingThe third and final component in Audiolab's three-strong 9000 series has landed – an app-driven network DAC with balanced outs. But what, if any, is the Lumin connection?

Arriving to crown Audiolab's top-flight 9000 series, which launched with the 9000A integrated amplifier and 9000CDT CD transport [HFN Aug '23], the 9000N is arguably the most intriguing model in the range. This streaming DAC, priced at £2499, and styled to match, marks a point of departure for the brand as its association with DTS Play-Fi is cut in favour of a new streaming platform and app.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 14, 2024
hfnoutstandingIncorporating Auralic's latest Tesla G3 streaming platform, the Aries G2.2 digital server also features a beefed-up PSU, a solid-state storage option and the promise of Dirac Live

At Munich's High End show in May 2023, a rare appearance by Auralic founder Xuanqian Wang heralded the launch of G3 versions of its Aries streaming transport and Vega streaming DAC, destined to extend the company's reach into the high-end when they arrive later this year. Yet at the same event the digital audio specialist introduced new G2.2 iterations of the Aries (tested here) and Vega [HFN Nov '23], both now available priced £5299 and £6899, respectively. Somewhat confusingly, all four models – regardless of their generation number – use the same G3 version of Auralic's Tesla streaming platform.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 11, 2024
hfnoutstandingNestled at the heart of dCS's three-box Lina headphone amp solution is the Lina DAC, now refreshed with APEX-level firmware as a springboard into its mainstream range

When dCS was founded in 1987, the idea that hi-fi hardware could be comprehensively upgraded without the need to lug it back to the shop might have seemed the stuff of science-fiction. Skip forward some 40 years, however, and firmware updates – delivered over-the-air for networked products – have become the norm. They're often used to squash 'bugs' and tweak minor settings, but what the Cambridge-based company has done with its Lina Network DAC is more noteworthy.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 23, 2024
Pure in name and hi-fi heart, Matrix Audio's 10th anniversary Element X2 model loses its headphone amp but gains a pair of new, cutting-edge ESS Sabre DACs

While the list of 'legacy products' on Matrix Audio's website begins with the DA-100 Plus DAC, which debuted in 2006, the Chinese brand insists it only really began life in 2013 when it was registered as Matrix Electronic Technology Co. 'Before that, Matrix Audio existed in the form of a studio', says marketing manager Yang Tao. This explains why the literature for the new Element X2 Pure network DAC (and the sticker that graces the top of the unit) proclaims it a celebratory model, launched to mark the company's 10th anniversary.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 04, 2024
hfnoutstandingFollowing hard on the heels of Denon's DCD/PMA-1700NE SACD player/amplifier, this new network-attached DAC brings a host of streaming options – including HEOS

Our review of the Denon PMA-1700NE amplifier [HFN May '23] included the observation that the Japanese brand was missing a standalone streamer. A glaring oversight, it seemed at the time, as Denon in all other respects is a believer in offering similarly dressed separates for a neat hi-fi stack. So while you could pair the PMA-1700NE (or another PMA series amp) with a DCD series CD player or a Denon turntable, if you wanted to listen to your Tidal playlists you had to look elsewhere. The introduction of the £1399 DNP-2000NE closes the loop.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 14, 2023
hfnoutstandingSome ten years after its introduction, the minimalist Vega USB DAC has grown into a fully-fledged streaming solution incorporating a host of proprietary technologies

The Auralic Vega G2.2, selling for £6899 in best basic black, comes in at just £100 more than the previous G2.1 [HFN Oct '22], and appears to offer evolutionary changes rather than anything truly radical. One thing's for sure, however – the brand has come a long way since it launched its original Vega model, which was basically a USB-input DAC, getting on for a decade ago [HFN Jan '14].

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: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 24, 2023
hfnoutstandingBuilt into an enhanced H590 chassis but featuring 'sound tuning' from the P30A/H30A pre/power, Hegel's fully-networked flagship integrated gets off to a flying start

After an extended period of Covid and component shortage-related calm, Oslo-based Hegel has seemingly shifted into overdrive, launching multiple new products in just half a year. First up in 2023 was a major update to its flagship pre/power system in the form of the P30A and H30A [HFN Jun '23], followed by the Viking CD player [HFN Sep '23]. The third act is the launch of the H600, which takes over from Hegel's popular, top-tier H590 integrated streaming amp, and sells for £10,500 in a very dark grey, almost matt black finish.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 02, 2023
hfnoutstandingKorea's HiFi Rose has moved upmarket with its first DAC-less, transport-only network player – the result is an impressive combination of purity and innovative technology

As if on a one-company mission to prove all the variations possible when it comes to network audio, Korean brand HiFi Rose has gone in very short order from being an upstart newcomer to its current role as a pillar of the digital establishment. And it's done so not by the simple expedient of taking one platform and pitching it at a range of price-points, but rather by expanding its offering to fill every niche from the all-in-one 'just add speakers' system [HFN Mar '22] to the highly-focused high-end network component explored on these pages.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 26, 2023
hfncommendedItalian brand Volumio is responsible not just for a series of network-attached digital players, but also an open-source OS and bespoke app. The Rivo (stream) is its 'bridge'

Launched in 2022, the Rivo is the middle model in a trio of new streaming devices from Florence-based Volumio, and this digital-only streamer, together with the second-generation Primo streaming DAC and the Integro networked amplifier, concludes an unlikely journey for the Italian start-up.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 25, 2023
hfnoutstandingThe premier 'server/player/reclocker' from New Zealand brand Antipodes Audio boasts a host of proprietary technology and supports up to 24TB of user-installed SSD storage

Network audio is a significant growth area in hi-fi, helped along by network-connected transports and servers, designed to be used into offboard DACs. We used to call these devices 'network bridges', interposed between the home network, and any storage devices thereon, and an audio system. Nowadays they've grown beyond that basic functionality, being able to access music stored internally or via directly connected drives. Meanwhile, the 'network connectivity' is used to access online streaming services, and offer remote control via a tablet or smartphone app.

Review: Andrew Everard, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 17, 2023
hfnoutstandingAurender's flagship two-box network music library isn't the traditional PSU/player you might expect. Instead, the functionality is elegantly split between data in and data out

Look at any multi-box component and you can usually work out what's going on: CD transport and DAC, preamp and power amp(s), for example. But just as often those two boxes are an 'audio product' – phono preamp, headphone amp, DAC or even a digital audio transport – plus an outboard power supply. The rationale for these latter two-boxers is clear, for by isolating the electrically noisy parts of the system away from delicate audio signals, interference is minimised and signal purity maximised.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 15, 2023
hfnoutstandingMarrying old-school Yamaha looks with new-fangled digital functions, the R-N2000A streaming amplifier offers convenience in a package to delight vintage devotees

Few audio brands have escaped the component shortages and wonky logistics of the last few years, including Yamaha, but the company is putting all that behind it with a slew of new products. The £2895 R-N2000A is in the vanguard of a new series from this venerable Japanese manufacturer, one or two sneak-previewed at High End Munich 2022. The 2023 show then saw the launch of its lower-tier R-N1000A and R-N800A network-attached amplifiers, sharing many features with the flagship model reviewed here. Yamaha is also offering a range of speakers to match, so if you want to go full Yammy then matching high-gloss piano black NS-2000A floorstanders are available to pair with the R-N2000A. This fits with the brand's efforts to re-establish its once-familiar position in the two-channel hi-fi scene.

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