Network Audio Players/Servers

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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.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 14, 2019
hfncommendedPart of the Minnesota brand's compact Evolution One series, this 'Asynchronous Network Bridge' can feed a DAC with streamed music, or be used straight into an amp

Why can't products just be what they claim? Elsewhere in this issue you'll find a high-end network player that's also a very fine DAC, and a very affordable preamp that comes with a built-in tuner and power amplification. It's all very confusing – and then along comes Bel Canto's £1500 e.One Stream, launched at last year's Hi-Fi Show Live in Windsor, and demonstrated in an all-Bel Canto system with YG Acoustics speakers. An unassuming compact component, its 'half-width' casework impeccably finished in a choice of black or silver, the e.One Stream purports to be an 'Asynchronous Network Bridge'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 11, 2019
hfnoutstandingThe new flagship player network player from Naim ups the ante – not to mention the price – from the company's previous range. Is the performance elevated, too?

The ND 555, sitting at the top of Naim's latest three-strong network player/streamer/call-it-what-you-will range at £12,999, isn't a direct replacement for the 'old' NDS. Yes, that player is now discontinued, but note I said the ND 555 isn't a 'direct' replacement – after all, the new model is more than twice the price of its forebear...

Andrew Everard  |  Jun 04, 2019
Andrew Everard explains how to integrate online music into your system

Streaming? It's simple: you plug your smartphone's headphone output into your amplifier using a 3.5mm-to-stereo-phono cable, tap the free Spotify app, and you're in business. It's hard to see what all the fuss is about really, isn't it?

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 12, 2019
hfncommendedThe entry-level model in Naim's new network music player range may look simple to the point of anonymity, but its performance could make it the true star of the lineup

No display, no power supply upgrade route, not even a remote handset: at first glance, the most striking feature of Naim's £2299 ND5 XS 2, the junior model in its revitalised network music player range, could be everything it hasn't got. After the striking looks of the 'new Uniti' models, with which it shares a software/hardware platform, and the large full-colour displays of the pricier NDX 2 [HFN Sep '18] and ND555, the ND5 XS 2 gives away little about its functionality.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngPacking a high quality DAC and streamer into a half-size box, this new digital converter also features powerful user-configurable DSP. It's a potent combination…

With this new DAC, for the first time in my design career, I have the chance to make an impression that has people saying “wow”', Daniel Weiss told HFN. 'Designed by our team here, it is different – but not radically so – to our earlier products.' He's being a little modest because the new Weiss DAC501 is more than a little diverting in any number of different ways…

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  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngHere’s a network audio bridge, a USB player and computer audio cleaning device, and a Roon Ready endpoint – all in one tiny (and affordable) box. Is there anything it can’t do?

The rise of ‘computer audio’ has rewritten the rules on hi-fi components. What once required a full-width separate can now be achieved with an almost vanishingly small box of computer technology, all ready to connect into your existing system. You can stream using a Raspberry Pi, an Asus Tinkerbox or an Intel NUC – to name but a few – and a whole industry has sprung up making add-ons for these mini-computers to turn them into digital or analogue audio devices, or even complete ‘just add speakers’ systems.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngThis neatly packaged, sleekly-styled Scandinavian integrated offers DAC and streaming functionality, plus a very fine sound thanks to its proven Class D power amp modules

Many think of Apple as creating today’s world of sleek, minimalist consumer electronics – but the business and creative heads of that Californian company – Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive – were themselves inspired by great talents working in hi-fi, long before the iconic iPod was ever launched. Lest we forget, Jacob Jensen did amazing industrial design work at Bang & Olufsen for decades, as did Dieter Rams at Braun 15 years earlier.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2018
'Bridge' digital sources, the link between conventional physical media and computer-based audio, are very much on-trend at the moment – what can T+A bring to the party?

So, are the twin threats of downloaded music and streaming services putting the final nail in CD's coffin? In the future will our music collections exist only as files on a home server, or indeed not as collections at all – figures seem to suggest downloads are flagging – but rather as infinite libraries accessed on demand from online services?

Review: David Vivian, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngThe company ups the ante by adding a 'just-add-speakers' solution to its Artera series, managing to squeeze streaming alongside CD replay into casework of pert proportions

So far, Quad's Artera family has comprised the Play (a combined CD transport, DAC and preamp) and the Stereo [HFN Nov '15], which is a power amp using the company's Current Dumping topology. Both solid-state components, not only are they compact and dapper but high functioning and lifestyle literate too – a feat that's trickier than it might seem. But not as tricky as folding all of the above (plus streaming) into a chassis with the same proportions as the other components in the Artera range.

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