Melco N50 Digital Music Library Streaming with the Melco N50

Sidebar 1: Streaming with the Melco N50

I've long been curious about Melco's music libraries, so after Kal had submitted his review, I asked him to send me the N50. Then I read his review and saw his note about its limitations from its streaming "Player" output. I was determined to try it for myself.

The note at Apple's app store says that, while the Melco app doesn't support streaming to an Ethernet-connected DAC, an Ethernet-connected "Music Player" should be able to see the Melco and play music from it via its own app. So I tried it with the CH Precision C1 DAC that I still have in house after the CH Precision D1.5 review. The Melco showed up immediately in the CH Precision app. It worked right away, and the sound was excellent.

Then, to prove to myself that the Melco app can't see network-connected DACs, I installed the Melco Music app on my iPad mini. No matter what I did, it couldn't see the CH Precision DAC connected to the Melco's Ethernet "Player" port, or any other network-connected DAC, although it could, as Kal indicated, see every device on my home network with music storage. It was then I noticed a note in the quick-start guide indicating that, when playing files from the N50 to a network-connected player, "the N50 will be used as a NAS (network-attached storage) device."

That's the last piece of the puzzle I needed to understand exactly what kind of component the Melco N50 is. With a DAC connected directly to the Melco's dedicated USB output, the N50 is, or can be used as, an audio server. In a Roon or JRiver context, with a direct-connected USB DAC, it can serve as an endpoint. But when a "Music Player"—Melco's word choice—is connected to the networked "Player" port, the N50 functions as a network-attached storage device with an optimized Ethernet output.—Jim Austin

Melco Syncrets Inc.
Authorized US distributor: Luxman America
27 Kent St., Suite 105A
Ballston Spa, New York 12020

cognoscente's picture

I always wonder "what's wrong with using the iPhone (which you already have, like in my case) as an iPod with the Onkyo HF player app. for the Hi-Res files and an USB cable?"

Kal Rubinson's picture

I cannot answer your question because I detest using my iPhone for anything except phone calls and texting. Screen size is too small and navigation is torturous.

trynberg's picture

This seems to have less functionality than my i5 NUC, running Roon ROCK, which is controlled by either Apple or Android tablets, plays multi-channel music, and cost under $400 to build.

I fail to see why anyone would purchase any of these ridiculously priced streamer devices.

Brown Sound's picture

I totally agree. It is way overpriced, indeed.

Brown Sound's picture

I kept reading to see how this thing sounded. I figured it must sound pretty damn good, for it to warrant a Stereophile review. But nope, and Kal confirmed it, there was very little audio comparison. So this $5500, glorified music server, with all of the listed fussiness and being locked behind the Apple wall, it somehow deserves a pass and positive review? Sorry, but for that kind money, it should be close to flawless and hell, make breakfast too. I have been reading Stereophile for over thirty years, and this one really has me shaking my head. I am sorry, you got stuck with this one, Kal.

T.S. Gnu's picture

“Computer-based server devices (including, for example, the Roon Nucleus and Nucleus+) have a single Ethernet connection, so they must be connected to a network-capable DAC via a network switch. That means the server device cannot guarantee the integrity of the Ethernet signal. Because it provides a second, dedicated Ethernet port, the N50 can ensure the integrity of that digital waveform.”

In case you are uninformed, the server NEVER guarantees the integrity of the Ethernet signal; that guarantee is provided by the TCP/IP protocol that is used to transfer the packets from server to client (and, NO, it is not UDP for audio streaming from any NAS or computer). The client ACKnowledges the receipt of each packet, hence this is a bidirectional communication wherein the protocol compares the ACKnowledgement with what it sent; if there is a mismatch, the packet is resent thus ensuring the integrity of the “signal” (as you put it), although packet would be the more appropriate terminology. Hence, the N50 does not do what you claim it does; rather it is the transport protocol that does so…as it does for any two devices communicating for the purposes of this discussion.

It would be tremendously useful to the reader if these misstatements were clarified now that you ARE informed of the same. Even better yet if there were some effort made into preventing them in the first place. If you are not claiming this, and simply repeating marketing material, it would behoove one to confirm the veracity of these claims before repeating them. Considering the relative permanence of your words on the internet, it would be a good way to minimize any unfortunate decline in the credibility of your columns.


Kal Rubinson's picture

You would be correct if you presumed that the statement was an assertion of the product manufacturer and should have been placed in quotes for proper attribution.

FWIW, my personal Baetis server does have two Ethernet ports and have never found that using both of them (so that the output is direct-wired to the streamer) has never made any operational or audible difference as compared with using a single port and switch for input and output.

Thanks for bringing this up.

T.S. Gnu's picture

if, as mentioned in my earlier comment, the assertion of a manufacturer were verified even if and when it is included in quotes; mere repetition of the information may be viewed as a tacit endorsement. Assuming that this isn’t the case, the propagation of incorrect information is simply misinformation or (worse) disinformation and part of the responsibility of disseminating information is indeed ensuring that it is correct information.

Again, this a good way to minimize any unfortunate decline in the credibility of your columns, especially with their relative permanence online and in print. Thanks for the response and clarification, including the example of your Baetis.