Pink Faun 2.16x music streamer Page 2

From the Pink Faun via the Okto dac8 PRO, there was no system background noise, and the ambient aura before the music started mapped out a large space. The first notes surprised as they spilled out with requisite hall sound and body resonance from a large instrument that, only milliseconds before, was not there. Anyone who appreciates great piano playing will be hooked for the balance of the recital.

I also listened to one of my John Atkinson–engineered favorites, "The First Tears" by Eriks Ešenvalds (The Doors of Heaven, Ethan Sperry, Portland State University Chamber Choir, Naxos 8.579008, 16/44.1). No matter how often I play this, the beauty and emotion of the music and the combination of transparency and presence of the voices affect me deeply. And yet, the Pink Faun (with any of the DACs) seemed to improve both transparency and presence by an increment. I can say much the same about what I heard from The Americus Brass Band pays tribute to James Reese Europe's Harlem Hell Fighter's Band (Cambria Master Recording's CD-1263, rip from CD), but here there was also added satisfying weight to complement the transparency and presence. Tonal balance seemed honest and consistent regardless of the musical content.

As a mere data processor, the Pink Faun 2.16x is as perfect a one as I have used, corroborating my premise that a well-made server leaves the music untouched. But is it in fact more than that? Direct comparisons were inconclusive. Comparing the Pink Faun to my Baetis Prodigy X (now going off for upgrade), using identical AudioQuest Coffee USB cables connected to the dac8 PRO (by plug/unplug or with a USB 3.0 sharing switch), there were moments when I felt I heard changes in the space between the instruments or the ambience during musical pauses, but the only enduring difference was a feeling: I felt more relaxed when listening to the Pink Faun.


Certainly, the Pink Faun is sufficiently transparent to permit me to hear differences among DACs and reconstruction filters. All three of the on-hand DACs use related ESS Sabre DAC chips, but the older Mytek Brooklyn was easily distinguished from the other two by its slightly brighter sound, regardless of the chosen PCM filter. The dac8 PRO and the exaSound use different but related ESS DAC chips and were connected to the Pink Faun by different technologies (USB and LAN+USB, respectively). They did sound a bit different, but that depended on which PCM reconstruction filter I chose. With the dac8 PRO's filter set to FRMP (fast roll-off, minimum phase), the two DACs (the dac8 PRO and the exaSound) were almost completely identical on extended listening and in quick A/B comparisons. (There are no filter options on the exaSound, nor does the manufacturer reveal which of the ESS Sabre filter options he has chosen.) The only residual difference, subjectively of course, seemed to be a modicum of increased <100Hz bass with the exaSound compared to the other DAC.

Let's put all that aside and put on a new Reference Recording: a 20th anniversary remastering of Fiona Boyes's debut album, Blues in My Heart (FR-740). Boyes is "the only Australian ever recognized by The Blues Foundation in Memphis, earning 8 Blues Music Awards nominations" and "the first woman and non-American to win the International Blues Challenge in Memphis," or so says the Reference Recordings website.

From the opening note, the sound of her guitar leaped off the stage with stunning presence. I was hooked through all 16 tracks. Her voice is warm and clear in the center. The supporting players, which vary from track to track, are excellent. This was originally recorded "live to analog" in Melbourne and then digitally remastered in 2019 by Joseph Carro. This was the first time I'd heard her work, and this is just CD-rez, but so what? Whatever the original "acoustic album of fingerpicking ragtime blues" sounded like, if the Pink Faun and any of these DACs (pick 'em) can create the thrill of a live experience, as it did here, I can't ask for more.

You want high resolution? The latest recording of Handel's Concerti Grossi, Op.3 from the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (Pentatone PTC 5186776, SACD) conducted by Georg Kallweit is a new favorite and joins their release of the Op.6 Concerti Grossi on my regular playlist. These are vibrant updates of these popular pieces and, in stereo via the Pink Faun, they bloomed like a colorful bouquet. The melodies sang as they passed from instrument to instrument, accompanied by full, detailed bass from the lower strings. The soundstage was deep and detailed. In multichannel, the bouquet was even more colorful, expansive, and thrilling.

If there is any small fly in the ointment, it is that the PF's very powerful Ryzen CPU isn't all-powerful. Yes, it played everything I tried in stereo with the Mytek and in stereo and multichannel with the exaSound e38/II, including PCM up to 24/352.8 and DSD up to DSD256; these DACs can handle all those formats at their native bitrates. The Okto dac8 PRO, however, is limited to top data rates of 32/192 (PCM) and DSD128, so music with source bitrates exceeding those limits requires Roon to downsample. With PCM, the Pink Faun did fine, even with other functions, like speaker management (channel level and distance adjustments), turned on. But downsampling multichannel files >DSD128 wasn't smooth, although stereo up to DSD256 was OK.


These are difficult tasks. Running any streamer at high DSD bit rates and adding tasks like DSP and up/down-sampling is ferociously demanding in multichannel, and the problems I had apply only with a DAC that cannot handle these high bit rates in their native state. For stereo, all is cool.

Installing HQPlayer Embedded as the output device/processor for Roon improved all of these functions to the point where downsampling multichannel DSD256 to DSD128 or upsampling multichannel DSD64 to DSD128 ran well even with speaker management and channel mapping, which implies that HQPlayer does the up/downsampling more efficiently than Roon does.

One potential concern with the Pink Faun is that the company is based in Europe, with no US dealer support. While setting up the Pink Faun, I had some networking problems in my home. While resolving them, I managed to corrupt the operating system. Remote support from the distributor was swift and thorough, but the damage I had wrought was so great that I had to ship the PF back to the manufacturer for repair. It was a good experience.

The Pink Faun 2.16x Streamer is, sonically, as perfect a stereo source component as I have used. The sound I have enjoyed from it has been consistently satisfying and often breathtaking. It is expensive, big, heavy, and bold. It is also silent and a pleasure to use. Highly recommended.

Pink Faun High-End Audio
US distributor: Believe High Fidelity
1307 Samson Dr.
Hutto, TX 78634
(512) 470-2709

Anton's picture

It seems all we need now is a way to kick it up to needing nine boxes of stuff to play Tidal and digital will have finally arrived.

Streamers, ‘bridges,’ bit rates, ‘clocks/reclockers,’ network appliances (?) and changing entire pieces for the want of interconnect compatibility....

Time to remake this cartoon....

“The two things that really drew me to digital were expense and the inconvenience.”

teched58's picture

I honestly don't get it. $20,000 for what's essentially a PC, and it comes without a DAC or storage. (I think the tell here is this device has a ton of features, yet it's unclear why one needs it.

Forgetting the fact that you can build your own NUC with all the bells and whistles for a much lower $$$, how will this thing (since it's a computer not an audio device) not be obsolete in five years?

Jack L's picture

....... not be obsolete in five years?" quoted teched58.



I am pretty amused by Anton's above post: "Digial is ALMOST hifi".

YES. I fully agree that "digital is ALMOST hifi", but not there yet, considering I am addicted to classical music on vinyl (owning 1,000+ stereo LPs).

Mind you, I still keep my CD, DVD-audio & WiFi Blu-ray players on backburner for casual convenient listening.

So do I NEED or want to blow 2 grands to own a streamer ? Absolutely NOT for musicality reason alone.

That said, as a backup convenient music source, I got a no-name basic DAC with coaxial/DPIF inputs & analogue L+R outputs from a no-name online vendor for a very dirt cheap price. This basic DAC is now hooked up to my WiFi Blu-ray player.

So this cheapie DVD streamer+DAC combination really does the job. Why spend serious money on a secondary (digital) music source ?????

Play smart digitally

Listening is believing

Jack L

wilco's picture

your Vinyphile superiority complex with us. If you had every heard top quality digital playback your attitude might have more credibility. My daughter's cheap turntable sounds like crap btw, and very inconvenient.

Kal Rubinson's picture

??? OK. There may be other issues of excess here to comment on but "Streamers, ‘bridges,’ bit rates, ‘clocks/reclockers,’ network appliances (?) and changing entire pieces for the want of interconnect compatibility...." are not relevant here. Just add a DAC.

jimtavegia's picture

I have no issues about the price of things, especially when I can't afford it. My son who is on Twitch built me a new Win 10 computer, loaded for under $800 with 32 gigs of ram and 4 HD, one solid state for boot up and the others older drives with all of my recordings and other files to access. The gaming video card is excellent. I can hear the fans which is somewhat troublesome, but I could and spent the money and liquid cooled it like he did his. I'll wait.

I have not gotten into streaming...Spotify never sounds right to me, neither did Qobuz, and Tidal did some of the time, but seems variable in quality to me. And I know they are doing just great without me, so it is OK. I am using JRiver 27 so I am trying.

I have always read over the years about Dr. Kal's systems, how they have changed and how he is an "early adopter" on many fronts and have no doubt that what he hears on his two excellent systems is "for real".

I feel sure that there will be many well healed readers of Stereophile who will eagerly check out this piece and be happy with their purchase. I am glad that it comes in colors other then "pink". If Barbie needs a streamer they can fill her order quickly. Sadly each of my three newer cars cost less than this streamer. This will probably get more use by the owners than my cars that have sat most of the time in 2020.

tonykaz's picture


As perfect a stereo source as our Reviewer has ever experienced. well !

That is say'n a whole lot.

Can we assume that Mr.KR has indeed owned turntables ? I bet he has.

And we should consider that $20,000 doesn't go all that far in the Analog World if we're talking "Best" levels like Mr.MF is showing with that $250,000 dollar 33.3 spinner from Austria. for gods sake

If this is a "Best Sounding & Performing" device, the price might be justified. ( just not for me, of course, I won't spend that much unless it's 4 individual pieces that I can double my money with )

Decades ago, I represented the Pink Triangle turntable company. These Gay Brits made a beautiful player that performed as well as it's competition. Hmm, is this Pink Faun outfit a Gay Company? We should be told, shouldn't we?

All those colors are Anodising ( I'd suggest ) which means that the nice Colours will fade and not be so nice, in a few years. ( not that it matters if the technologies change and the piece rapidly becomes obsolete i.e. dvd ).

Thank you, Mr.KR for this work, I'd've hoped for a bit more back story about the People creating this device and more about who the intended market is.

Tony in Venice

ps. the Pink one in the picture is dam nice looking, I'm gonna order a Color Sample from Sherwin-Williams

jimtavegia's picture

Thought something would best the Calliburn. There is no way with my 73 year old ears that I could A/B those two turntables and pick a winner.

Wait until Elon Musk enters the race with his all battery/solar powered TT.

tonykaz's picture

Already done.

With Sennhieser transducers

Great music on that Desert Island.

Probably won't work on the Dark Analog Planet, for some reason.

Tony in Venice

justincz's picture

why i dont read stereophile anymore

John Atkinson's picture
justincz wrote:
why i dont read stereophile anymore

But you are reading Stereophile :-)

Thank you for the page views.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Cooking Man's picture

My Dad gets outraged by a particular writer in The Guardian Saturday Food & Drink section .Every week he has a rant about the impossibility of finding the ingredients,the number of ingredients,the technical complexity of the dish, blah,blah. I suggested to Dad he just stops reading this guy’s pieces. He hasn’t stopped. I wonder if he actually enjoys being irritated?
Someone wiser than me once suggested that moral outrage is 20% moral,30% outrage and 50% jealousy. I couldn’t comment...

Jack L's picture


Sour grapes ?

Jack L

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

You beat me to it, John.

Robin Landseadel's picture

The food was awful, and the portions were too small.

jimtavegia's picture

I am done getting my undies in a wad as it is fruitless. My BP was under 120/70 at my DR today and I am leaving the news alone as I have little effect on anything these days.

What I can do is put on some great music and chill. I did get bothered over this past weekend about Mary Chapin Carpenter's newest release, The Dirt and the Stars, in which I cannot understand all the lyrics she sings and it is driving me crazy as if my hearing is getting this bad, this is the wrong hobby for me.

In Sony Sound-Forge 14 all the tracks wav forms are compressed and peak limited (-0.3db), but am I really on the slippery slope down or is this on them? I bought the HD Tracks version that is 2496, it is smoother, but the wav form is still compressed and peak limited to excess IMHO. I can understand slightly more, but...

Maybe someone else owns this new release and break the bad news to me. I doubt a Weiss 502 could help me out here.

IMHO Stereophile has helped me over the years improve my audio playback and why I keep reading and follow the music reviews. I am listening the ECM and Manu Katche, Third Round to regain some sanity of clarity. Even in the gear I can't afford there are always take-aways for me to grasp.

ChrisS's picture

...article on the Widex hearing aids?

volvic's picture

I enjoyed reading this review. Since I am an analog guy, I usually gloss over these articles but read it this morning and thoroughly enjoyed it. It proved that whether it's analog or digital to get the great sound, the investment and outlay involved is quite substantial. Like everything else in life; food, wine, clothes, and yes, even sound, there is a cost. Good _______ (fill in the blank here) costs!

jimtavegia's picture

I have been fitted through the VA with some average and some expensive (free to me since my hearing loss is military related), but neither worked for me even with the custom moulds.

I think what I am going to be left with is my AKG K271s for most music and vocals especially, and then I will use my AKG K701s and my Audio Technica ATH 50Xs for a warmer presentation on instrumental works. I am afraid my 73 year old, tinnitus bound ears are not left with much to work with. I love the 50Xs on jazz and classical music.

I have noticed one thing last night as I went through about 10 of Diana Krall's discs and LPs I own. Her style and voice have changed throughout the years, clear and strong early, and now more breathy and quiet as of late. I am wating for her newest release to come today or tomorrow. I love Al Schmitt's work, but her voice on Wall-Flower rides just barely above the music on some tracks. I noticed the same thing on the LP, Quiet Nights. Sometimes a "style" can get in the way of intelligibility. I'm sure their thousands of dollars of monitors there is no issue for them in the mix. The problem is all mine for sure, sadly.

I will now need to find a new MM phono cartridge that is a little hyped up in the mids now to help my hearing out. I don't want to have to go to a multiband EQ to solve my problems, but that may be where I am headed.

The mixing and mastering have changed for vocal music from the 40's, 50's and 60's where the vocalists sat much higher in the mix. No problem hearing the lyrics out of those discs.

Thanks for the link.