Network Media Players

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Hi-Fi Choice  |  Mar 24, 2016  |  0 comments
Few current audio trends seem to be gathering pace with quite the urgency of personal high-resolution audio players. Considering how many consumer temptations the proliferating sector has snagged, it isn’t hard to understand why. Perhaps it was inevitable that the early aspirational appeal of Astell&Kern’s carbon fibre-clad, tech-dense luxury items would open the way for the skilfully compromised but high-achieving, cost-very-much-an-object Far East offerings that have grown the market and realised the idea that the sonic advantages of hi-res on the move are for every music lover and not just the diehard audiophile or well heeled. More than that, the market is evolving and diversifying in interesting ways.
 |  Jan 26, 2015  |  0 comments
No sooner had A&K started selling its flagship AK240 portable hi-res audio player than it announcedit had also upgraded its two original portables, the AK100 and AK120 – reviewed issues 370 and 375 respectively. While the junior members of the AK club have been given new finishes and received a raft of performance enhancing measures (including Cirrus Logic CS4398 DACs) the AK240 remains the out and out leader of the gang. The defining feature of the flagship model is the presence of an extra XMOS processor, which provides native DSD support at both 2. 8MHz and 5.
 |  Jan 26, 2015  |  0 comments
With a reputation for elegant Scandinavian design, Primare’s products are instantly recognisablefor their minimalist approach to high-end separates. At £6,500 each, the recently launched flagship 60pre/power amps ooze class fromtheir two-tone titanium and black cases housing the company’s latest UFPD (Ultra Fast Power Device)Class D technology. Below theseamps sits a selection of more modestly priced amps, CD players,a DAC and a MM/MC phono stage. The NP30 is based on the MM30 ‘media board’, a £1,300 add on that slots into dedicated ports in Primare’s I32 integrated and PRE32 preamp, turning them into fully fledged network players.
 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
If anyone can help drive the take up of hi-res audio among non-audiophilesit’s this Japanese giantof consumer electronics with its premium-brand reputation. The NWZ-ZX1 operates very much like an Android phone with DLNA networking, web browsing, email, YouTube, etc, but without the telephony or texting features. Audiophiles may baulk at this multi-tasking, but such features are largely software based and unlikely to compromise the player’s performance. And by offering these features rather than say an expandable memory slot, digital optical audio output, DSD compatibility or the ability to use the NWZ-ZX1 as an external DAC, Sony is clearly targeting a different type of user.
 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
Despite having its finger in many home entertainment pies, the fact that Yamaha continues to plough considerable R&D into dedicated two-channel audio shows how much it values purist hi-fi. This network player also signals a move into newer territory for Yamaha, as its first all-in-one streamer for the UK. The R-N500 sits within Yamaha’s more affordable amplifier range starting with the £200 A-S201 integrated through to the £340 A-S500. These amps, however, are fairly standard fare compared to the R-N500, which is bristling with features drawn from the company’s mainland Europe and USA-facing R-S receiver range, from where the R-N500 inherits its front panel layout.
 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
What the world needs now – to quote the great Burt Bacharach – is love, sweet love. Well perhaps, but there’s a sizeable number of consumer electronics companies who think this is no longer quite so pressing, and instead we should all be given network music players to play with. So much so that now it feels like you can’t move for the things. Love isn’t all around anymore – as The Troggs once sang – audio streamers are! Krell’s new Connect needs to be special then.
 |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
When the first Walkman cassette player went on sale in 1979 I lusted after it almost as much as I did Debbie Harry. Then everything went digital and Sony forgot that the reason the Walkman sold so well was because it was the best player of a universal format. The first network Walkmans weren’t compatible with MP3 files, but Sony changed tack and embraced MP3, and the Walkman re-emerged – as did Blondie – so that both enjoyed moderate success albeit, both a shadow of their former selves. Fast forward to today and the tide may look high for MP3, which is good news for audiophiles.
 |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
If you were one of the few people who bought a style system during the last decade you probably risked derision from your cleaner, never mind your tech-savvy mates unable to fathom why you’d accept all of the compromises of such a purchase. Now style systems appear to be enjoying a revival. This is partly fuelled by an austerity-induced nostalgia for simpler times. Then there is the need for better quality sound when watching TV on a skinny flatscreen, plus the evolution of contemporary audio delivery mechanisms such as internet radio, hi-res audio, home networking and wireless streaming from smartphones and tablets.
 |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
You may think you’ve already seen the D 7050 gracing our review pages in recent months, as it looks strikingly similar to NAD’sD 3020 amp and D 1050 DAC, bothof which we tested back in issue 379. The D 7050 here, however, is an altogether more thorough package, and employs NAD’s Direct Digital circuitry (see Q&A), handed down from the company’s high-end Masters Series. This circuit ensures all preamp functions are performed in the digital domain, which NAD says helps keep unwanted noise low. Being a digital amp means that the D 7050 is bereft of analogue inputs, but digital inputs are well served across four S/PDIF sockets shared over coaxial and optical, alongside USB and Ethernet ports.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
You might be forgiven for gaining the impression that there is really only one option when it comes to portable digital players capable of 24/192 resolution – Astell&Kern. But it was always only a matter of time before other players appeared. Those in search of an alternative to the somewhat pricey players from iRiver pricked up their ears whenFiiO trailed the availability of a more affordable unit using the same Wolfson WM8740 DAC. A similar frisson was felt when it released an excellent portable headphone amp – the E17 – a year or two ago.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Jan 14, 2015  |  0 comments
By combining hi-fi sound quality with real world convenience, all-in-one digital music players signify a step-change for the hi-fi industry. Their allure is like that ofCD in the eighties, appealing to both audiophiles and music lovers alike who simply want a fuss-free way to hear music, which in the modern age could be stored on a smartphone, laptop or sophisticated NAS drive. Cambridge Audio clearly gets this and its Minx Xi combines features cherry picked from its affordable separates range, packed into an even more affordable do-it-all single box. So what you get is a 40W (claimed) Class AB amplifier derived from the company’s 351A integrated amp, dual Wolfson WM8728 DACs lifted from the 351C CD player, the streaming functionality of CA’s NP30 network player and Bluetooth connectivity courtesy of the company’s BT100 apt-X receiver.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 29, 2011  |  0 comments
Olive branch Olive’s new flagship hard-disk player brings huge storage and simple ease of use to the masses. Malcolm Steward listens in The 06HD is the current flagship model in the Olive range of hard-disk music servers. The enclosure is rather idiosyncratic: it is trapezoidal with the CD-drive loader (along with the headphone socket and volume control) mounted on the front, while the sloping top holds all the control buttons and an impressive 10-inch colour touchscreen. This precludes stacking the device or placing it on anything but the top shelf of an equipment rack.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 29, 2011  |  0 comments
XS all areas for just £2k Naim introduces its ‘entry-level’ network audio player, but there is nothing ‘entry-level’, however, about its performance, says Malcolm Steward The ND5 XS is Naim’s second network audio player and its first to offer native streaming of 24-bit/192 kHz sources. It follows the lauded and more expensive (£2,995) NDX (HFC 345) that arrived in February, this year. It differs from its forerunner, though, in being built into the attractive, slim-line XS series case rather than the taller Classic series enclosure, but is similar in being performance upgradeable. Upgrade options currently available include the XPS or PS 555 power supplies and the Naim DAC.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 29, 2011  |  0 comments
Denon gets on stream Denon has entered the network audio player market with an inexpensive, iPod-friendly player. Malcolm Steward streams his tunes The Denon DNP-720AE is quite a late arrival at the network player party, but it compensates for its tardiness by bringing with it a genuinely useful gift: Apple Airplay, to cater for those who keep their music library in iTunes and that is an extraordinarily large group of people. Despite the number of services and features it offers, the appearance of the player is delightfully simple. The fascia contains only an on/off button, a push button for input selection, a rotary cursor control, which will be familiar to iPod users, and a centrally mounted, three-line, Organic Electroluminescence Display.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 13, 2011  |  0 comments
Cambridge Audio NP30 Small and attractively priced, but have corners been cut on performance? A simple, unassuming little box, in keeping with the rest of the Sonata range, the NP30 keeps things simple on the input and output front, without actually scrimping. There is wired Ethernet (the one interface common to every device in this group) and a wireless connection via the supplied antenna, plus front and rear-mounted USB sockets for local media players. Output is analogue on phono sockets, or digital electrical and optical. In addition to the obvious functions of playing from local media and the computer network, various internet streaming services are accessible via UuVol, Cambridge Audio’s platform for streaming content.

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