Recommended Components Fall 2022 Edition Disc & File Players

Disc & File Players

Editor's Note: SACD and DVD-A player ratings are based on how they sound with their respective hi-rez media, not CD.

A+

Antipodes K50: $17,500
The made-in-New Zealand K50 works with Roon as both server and player, Roon as a server with Squeezelite or HQ Player as the player, or Squeeze as a server and Squeezelite as the player. It offers Ethernet, USB, I2S, AES3, and S/PDIF outputs, though the manufacturer doesn't recommend using USB. JVS found that the Squeeze server and Squeezelite apps were not as user-friendly as Roon, but using them to transmit the audio data via single AES3 to the dCS Rossini DAC "delivered the most transparent, detailed, color-saturated, vivid, midrange- and bass-rich sound of all options available to me." He also noted that playing files stored on the K50's optional SSD (sizes up to 24TB are available) sounded "a mite better—the extra transparency was noticeable" than playing the same files sourced from his NAS, or from Tidal and Qobuz. "Class A+ all the way," he concluded. (Vol.44 No.10 WWW)

Aurender N10: $8000 with 4TB storage ★
Designed in California and manufactured in South Korea, Aurender's N10 is a computer running a modified version of the open-source Linux operating system, and is dedicated to retrieving audio files from an external NAS drive, or a drive plugged into one of its USB ports, or its internal storage, and sending the data to its Class 2 USB output port or to one of its serial digital audio ports. Internal storage comprises two 2TB Western Digital Green hard drives, along with a 240GB solid state drive that's used to cache files before playback. Superb sound quality, decided JA, but DSD files were reproduced with a drop in volume when transcoded to PCM to play via a serial digital port. (Native DSD playback was okay.) "This server is a keeper," he summed up. In a Follow-Up, JVS described in detail his efforts to get the most from the N10. In the end, he expressed admiration for this one-box server's ease of use and its ability to connect to a DAC via USB, but noted his ultimate preference for other solutions. An extra 4TB of storage costs just $500 more. (Vol.39 No.4, Vol.42 No.4 WWW)

Baetis Audio Prodigy X3 server: $4800 (without options) ★
In spite of having more bells and whistles than its predecessor, the Baetis XR3, the new Prodigy X sells for a lower base price. That said, a number of options are available—and KR's review sample had more than a few, including a faster i7 CPU ($200), 32GB of RAM ($280), a pre-installed SOtM USBhubIN port with independent clock board ($1200), and an HD-Plex linear 400W PSU with Baetis cryo-treated DC cabling ($1220). Used with JRiver Media Center and his own exaSound e28 multichannel DAC, the Prodigy X treated KR to "marginally less noise at [the] speaker outlets," a bottom end that was "a bit tighter," and "greater overall clarity." Kal summed up the Prodigy X: "Another evolutionary step in an already distinguished line." In his "Music in the Round" column for the November 2017 Stereophile, KR noted that the Prodigy X "is now running the latest versions of Roon and JRiver Media Center (respectively v1.3/build 247 and v23.0.22)." (Vol.41 No.2 WWW)

Burmester Musiccenter 151 MK2: $27,500
The 151 MK2 is a music server/network streamer with an internal DAC, a 2TB internal SSD, and a volume control. Operations are controlled with an iPad/iPhone app via Wi-Fi. There are analog inputs, and files can be played from USB sticks and external drives, or NAS drives; internet radio and music can be streamed from Tidal, Qobuz, and Idagio via Ethernet or Wi-Fi; and a CD drive allows silver discs both to be played and to be ripped to the internal SSD. The Musiccenter's DAC automatically upsamples/resamples lower-rez music to 24/96 or 24/192 and DSD up to DSD256 and DXD to 24/192 or 24/96. JVS enjoyed his time with the Burmester, concluding that "Music lovers who retain their love for silver discs will find them sounding even better when ripped to the unit's 2TB SSD, and those accustomed to file playback and streaming will find the Musiccenter's multifunction, multipurpose excellence a one-stop avenue to bliss. Through the 151 MK2 Musiccenter, music sings supreme." JA found that the CD transport offered superb error correction/concealment, which he felt was appropriate for ripping CDs. He concluded that the Burmester 151's performance on the test bench indicated excellent audio engineering in both the digital and analog domains. "It gets a clean bill of health from this measurer." (Vol.45 No.5 WWW)

CH Precision D1.5 SACD/CD player/transport: $41,000–$46,000
Base price is for the SACD/CD transport, which has TosLink, AES3, and CH's proprietary high-rez CH Link HD; two MQA-capable mono DAC cards add $5000. Control is via two coaxial knobs on the front panel or with an app for Android devices. When it's used as a player, all data are upsampled to DXD (24/384), and the analog output is processed with a reconstruction filter optimized for the time domain. Playing CDs, JCA reported that low frequencies had "seismic weight" and that stereo imaging precision and soundstage depth were excellent. He also noticed how good the D1.5 sounded at low volume. With the MQA-CD of Patricia Barber's Clique, JCA wrote that Barber's voice had a lovely, creamy texture, though as the music got louder, he detected some congestion. In level-matched comparisons of the SACD version of this album, he didn't hear as much creaminess on the vocals, though the presentation was not congested at high levels. JCA concluded that after several months with the D1.5 he never got bored; the music kept surprising him. In the test lab, JA found that with CD data this filter rolled-off frequencies above 15kHz because the review sample's firmware had selected an incorrect filter; JCA updated the firmware and reported on the behavior with the correct filter in the May 2022 issue. He wrote that with the new firmware, the transformation in the sound of the D1.5, when playing CDs, was qualitative. It "wasn't necessarily—wasn't immediately—a giant leap forward in absolute sonic quality. It was, rather, simply a major change in sonic character." Other than the frequency response with CDs now extending to –3dB at 20kHz, the primary measurable difference was the change from a relatively long, minimum-phase impulse response to an extremely short impulse response. (Vol.45 Nos.3 & 5 WWW)

dCS Rossini Player 2.0: $36,800 ★
dCS Rossini Master Clock: $10,200 ★
Boasting the updated version of the company's signature Ring DAC, the dCS Rossini Player combines a Red Book CD drive with multiple digital inputs and a UPnP network player. The Rossini Player upsamples to the DXD format—PCM at 352.8kHz or 384kHz—and supports both DoP and native DSD up to DSD128. The Player is compatible with Ethernet and Apple AirPlay, and, as of the time of our review, the most recent version of its iOS app supports Roon endpoint integration. JA combined his review sample of the Rossini Player with the similarly new dCS Rossini Clock; summing up his thoughts on both, he wrote that the combo "produced what was, overall, the best sound from digital I have experienced in my system." Of his measurements, all of which incorporated the Rossini Clock, JA wrote that the Rossini Player offers performance that is "about as good as can be gotten from a thoroughly modern digital audio product." In the June 2019 Stereophile, JVS reported on dCS's Rossini software v2.0, which applies to both the Rossini Player and D/A processor. (Vol.39 No.12, Vol.42 No.6 WWW)

dCS Rossini SACD Transport: $26,500
Unlike the earlier Rossini Player, which only played CDs, the Rossini Transport uses a new mechanism from Denon that plays both SACDs and CDs. The Transport outputs audio data on twin AES/EBU links, to allow it to send native DSD data and CD data upsampled to DXD, DSD, or double DSD (these both encrypted) to a dCS DAC. JA used the Transport with a Rossini DAC and was mightily impressed by what he heard. He consistently preferred the sound of SACDs played on the Transport compared with the same data sent to the Rossini DAC over his network, feeling that the low frequencies sounded more robust. "Once these words have been laid out on the pages of this issue," JA concluded, "I'll have to return [the Rossini Transport] to dCS. It breaks my heart." (Vol.42 No.5 WWW)

dCS Vivaldi 2.0: $140,000/system as reviewed
w/o transport: $91,000 ★
The top dCS digital playback system comprises: the Vivaldi DAC ($35,999), which can decode every digital resolution from MP3 to DSD and DXD, provides 10 filter options (six for PCM, four for DSD), and offers every digital input other than Ethernet; the Vivaldi Upsampler ($21,999), which can upconvert even the lowest-resolution MP3 data to 24/384, DSD, and DXD, or any format in between; the Vivaldi Master Clock ($14,999), containing two groups of four clock outputs, which can be independently set; and the Vivaldi Transport ($41,999), a smooth, quiet, quick-booting SACD/CD drive based on TEAC's Esoteric VRDS Neo disc mechanism, controlled by dCS-designed signal-processing electronics and capable of upsampling CDs to DSD or DXD. In addition to updated casework and cosmetics, the Vivaldi products use a complete revision of dCS's Ring DAC topology, increasing the Ring DAC's available dynamic range and decreasing its jitter. Though setup was complicated, the Vivaldi components produced "a texturally supple, delicate, musically involving sound filled with color and life," said MF of the original version. On the test bench, the Vivaldi measured superbly, improving on dCS's Scarlatti in almost every way. "Wow!" said JA. In the December 2017 Stereophile, JVS wrote of the Vivaldi DAC's upgrade to v.2.02 firmware, which enables DSD128 file playback and includes other refinements; MQA compatibility, though anticipated, was not available at the time of our review. Compared to the same DAC running v.1.2 firmware, the upgraded DAC presented JVS with more vividly saturated tonal colors—"I was so impressed by the degree of color saturation that, to fully bask in the sound, I turned the lights out"—and, in place of dryness, "an iridescent clarity to timbres and textures." As of 10/22, DAC has been replaced by Apex version, currently under review. (Vol.37 No.1, Vol.40 No.12 WWW)

exaSound Delta: $3000 plus cost of internal storage and LCD display
Powered by an Intel i9-9900, this passively cooled music server runs exaSound's custom Linux operating system and a Roon Core, these stored on an SSD. An optional second SSD can be used for file storage. KR found the Delta to be more powerful than either a Roon Nucleus+ or a Baetis X4i, better coping with demanding DSP operations with multichannel and DSD files. "The Delta Music Server is the most capable server I have used, but it is far from the most expensive," he concluded, adding that the Delta is, in his opinion, what a Roon server should be. (Vol.44 No.4 WWW)

Grimm MU1 music streamer: $10,400 plus cost of internal storage (ex VAT)
The MU1 is based on an Intel twin-core i3 processor running a Linux-based operating system. It incorporates a Roon Core and is fully integrated with the Roon Server app. It can be controlled by rotating and pressing a top-mounted, bronze-colored disc. (A high-precision digital volume control and other functions can be selected with this control.) While its Ethernet and USB ports can be used to send audio data from the Intel board to a DAC, the MU1 upsamples PCM data and downsamples DSD data sourced from its AES/EBU outputs, using what Grimm calls a "Pure Nyquist" decimation filter hosted in a Xilinx FPGA. (Measurement revealed that this is an ultra–fast-rolloff filter, reaching full stop-band attenuation at half the original PCM data's sample rate.) JA very much preferred the sound from the AES/EBU outputs, finding that the upsampling of CD-resolution data reduced congestion, added depth to the soundstage, and increased the separation among acoustic objects in that soundstage. JA recommended the MU1 highly as a streamer, writing that it can also operate as a network bridge with legacy D/A processors that don't have USB or Ethernet ports, and that it can be used as the sole source component with active speakers that have digital inputs. A 1TB SSD adds $225; 2TB SSD adds $430; 4TB SSD adds $805. An FM tuner function is promised. (Vol.44 No.3 WWW)

Gryphon Ethos: $38,000
Released at a time when new CD players in general are rarities, let alone ones that cost as much as a 2020 Alfa Giulia, the Gryphon Ethos entices with its user-selectable upsampling (up to 24/384 PCM or DSD128) and digital filters (seven PCM, three DSD), its USB-addressable D/A processor (up to 32/384 PCM or DSD512), its choice of single-ended and balanced outputs, and its "eye-catching and resolutely retro styling"—that last one according to JVS, who also noted that the DAC does not decode MQA and that the player does not play SACDs. JVS also found that upsampling CDs "to either DSD or PCM enhanced listening with additional air and depth. . . . I liked the upsampling feature a lot." Jason's conclusion: "The Ethos is one open, marvelously detailed, and fresh-sounding unit that makes listening an absolute joy." Measurer-in-chief JA added to that assessment: "The Gryphon Ethos offers excellent audio engineering." Because it plays only CDs, A+ rating applies only to its use as a DAC. (Vol.43 No.1 WWW)

Innuos Statement: $16,700 and up, depending on storage
A dedicated server from Portuguese company Innuos, the two-box Statement includes a drive for ripping CDs and features eight separate power supplies: three for each voltage of the motherboard; one for the CPU; one for the SSD storage device; one for the Ethernet Reclocker board; one for the USB Reclocker Board; and one for the USB clock. At the time of the review, Roon and Innuos were discussing how the two systems will work together, but the Statement could still be used as a Roon output device. Comparing the Statement with a Nucleus+ using USB connections to his dCS Rossini D/A processor, JVS found that the Innuos server's treble seemed slightly rounded, the presentation "a touch warmer. . . . The Statement warmed the piano and smoothed out the top in a manner that some would call analoglike or tubelike." JVS concluded that "In its flagship Statement music server, Innuos has created a transparent instrument that scores big in soundstage size and depth, dynamics, and bass reach." He was less impressed by the InnuOS 1.4.3 Web app, which he felt was best described as "a work in need of progress." In a Follow-Up, JA found almost no measurable differences in a PS Audio DirectStream's analog output whether it received data from the Nucleus+ or Statement via USB or from the Nucleus+ via Ethernet. In a series of listening tests, JA found differences between the Innuos and Roon servers difficult to hear with many recordings but ultimately agreed with JVS that via USB connections, the Nucleus's low frequencies were outclassed by the Statement's. "Not by much, I admit," he wrote, "but enough to matter; . . . the bass line had a touch more drive with Statement sending data to the PS Audio." (Vol.43 Nos.4 & 5 WWW)

MBL Noble Line N31: $17,400; optional Roon Ready module is $1,280 ★
Designed to play "Red Book" CDs and, via its USB and other digital inputs, music files up to 24/192 and DSD64 (DoP), the Noble Line N31 is less a digital-audio Swiss Army knife than a luxuriantly attractive, 40lb monument to the idea of perfecting the playback of audiophilia's best-loved digital formats. Built around the ESS Sabre 9018 DAC, the N31 offers a full-color 5" TFT display—the MBL player recognizes CD text and displays title information—and features an SDcard slot for firmware updates, a choice of three playback filters, and a remote handset that lights up before the person reaching for it has even touched it. Listening to CDs and even a CD-R through the N13, JA was impressed by the "sheer tangibility" of the MBL's sound, noting that, with its Min filter engaged, the N31 "gracefully reproduced" one "overcooked" track, and that the differences among its three filters were "greater in degree than with other DACs." Through the MBL's USB inputs, even iPhones and iPads, their own volume controls disarmed by the MBL's USB input, offered "excellent" sound quality. JA originally raised an eyebrow at the lack of a network port and the fact that the player's filters can't be selected via the remote handset, but both of these issues have been addressed in 2020 production with the optional Roon Ready Input Module. As with USB, the networked MBL rendered music with an excellent sense of overall drive and low-frequency impact, JA found, with low-level recorded detail well-resolved. JA concluded his original review by saying that digital sound "doesn't get any better" than what he heard from the N31. He also noted that the MBL offered 21 bits of resolution—the current state of the art of digital audio. This prompted JA the measurer to agree with JA the listener: "Digital audio engineering doesn't get any better." Price is with factory-installed Roon Ready network module. Price without module is $15,400. (Vol.41 No.2, Vol.43 No.12 WWW)

Métronome c|AQWO: $25,000
Métronome t|AQWO: $26,000
A combination of Métronome's c|AQWO D/A processor ($26,000) and t|AQWO transport ($24,000), this four-box SACD/CD player—each of the two above-named units has its own outboard Métronome Elektra power supply—provides the lucky owner with a means of not only playing the hi-rez layer of an SACD but also upsampling it to DSD256 or to 24-bit/384kHz PCM, the latter transformation also available to Red Book CDs. (Refer to the full review for details on the combination's output and input options, which defy description in a brief précis such as this.) JVS enjoyed the Métronome combination and singled out the c|AQWO DAC for its "non-fatiguing, easy-on-the-ears sound that some would consider analog-like." Writing from his lab, JA noted that the t|AQWO transport's error correction was "one of the best I have encountered." Apart from "disappointing" jitter performance via its AES/EBU and TosLink connections—all was well via HDMI—the c|AQWO DAC "did well on the test bench." (Vol.43 No.3 WWW)

Pink Faun 2.16x music streamer: $22,000 as reviewed, with S/PDIF and USB I/O cards
Storage for music files is optional with this expensive, dead-silent streamer from Holland, and it has no built-in DAC. As a streamer, though, it's an all-out effort. "Its huge size and weight and [custom] Lamborghini Orange front panel shout that out loud," KR wrote. The CPU on the motherboard is liquid-cooled by copper tubes coupling it to a large heatsink on one side of the chassis. The heatsink on the other side cools five large power transistors. Proprietary, sealed Oven Controlled Crystal (Xtal) Oscillators (OCXOs), available in standard or Ultra versions, are used for the system clock, the motherboard, and each of the I/O cards. The "headless" Pink Faun is controlled by the Roon app, which can run on a tablet or laptop. KR was impressed by this streamer's performance with both stereo and multichannel files, writing that it was sufficiently transparent to permit him to hear differences among DACs and reconstruction filters. "The Pink Faun 2.16x Streamer is, sonically, as perfect a stereo source component as I have used," he concluded. (Vol.43 No.12 WWW)

Roon Labs Nucleus+: $2559 without audio file storage ★
The first hardware product from software specialist Roon Labs, the Nucleus+ combines an Intel i7 processor/NUC board with 8GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD solid state drive, the latter hosting the Linux-based Roon Optimized Core Kit (ROCK) operating system and Roon server software. Also provided are a single gigabit Ethernet port, USB 3.0 ports for conversing with external drives and/or USB DACs, a multichannel-friendly HDMI port, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and an internal bay for an HDD or SSD drive. Use of the Nucleus+ requires a Roon subscription ($9.99/month, $699.99/lifetime). When JA tried the Nucleus+, he found he had "nothing specific to say about the sound other than that it was always excellent." KR described his efforts at pressing the Nucleus+ into service as a multichannel server. His results were encouraging, although DSP execution was a mixed bag, depending on sample rate, the operation desired, and the strain they put on processing power. Upsampling in particular "seemed to drain the tank." In a 2020 Follow-Up, JA found that the sonic differences between the Nucleus+ and the considerably more expensive Innuos Statement server were small. (Vol.41 No.8, Vol.42 No.3, Vol.43 Nos.4 & 5 WWW)

T+A MP 3100 HD SACD/CD player: $23,000
This impressively well-engineered, "Roon tested" hi-rez player includes AES/EBU, TosLink and coaxial S/PDIF, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and USB serial data inputs as well as a USB Type A port to play files on a storage device. It even has an FM radio tuner. A choice of four oversampling reconstruction filters allows the user to tailor the HD 3001's sonic signature. JCA concluded that "Treble tones glisten like light reflected from the facets of a diamond, and also seem especially relaxed—no digital glare. Bass, while not louder than with other digital sources, has more sturdiness and depth." On the test bench, the T+A player's measured performance was beyond reproach, though JA warned that those rare preamplifiers with an input impedance of less than 1k ohms should be avoided. (Vol.43 No.6 WWW)

Wolf Systems Alpha 3 server: $7795 as reviewed ★
Wolf Systems Alpha 3 SX server: $9895 as reviewed
Wolf Audio Systems specializes in configuring eighth-generation, six-core i7 processors for use as silent (no cooling-fan noise) music servers with prodigious computing power—leading KR, Our Man in the Round, to wonder if there existed a sufficiently powerful Wolf to meet the demands of multichannel playback (!) of hi-rez files (!!) with DSP and/or EQ (!!!). Wolf suggested he try the Alpha 3 High Fidelity Audio Server (HFAS), which supports JRiver Media Center and Roon and offers 16GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD for internal storage, and a TEAC Blu-ray transport for ripping and playing CDs. KR was impressed with the Alpha 3—and by Wolf's semi-customized owner's manual and telephone and VPN support. He noted that "the Alpha 3 never blinked, blanked, or unceremoniously rebooted itself; it worked silently and reliably." His verdict: "a great choice for playing hi-rez files of multichannel music." In his review of the premium Alpha 3 SX version—the SX stands for "Stillpoint/eXemplar Audio" and refers to grounding, vibration management, and RF/EMI rejection technology designed by those two companies—JVS wrote that "from the very first notes, the Alpha 3 SX's neutrality came as a breath of fresh air." JVS also auditioned the Alpha 3 SX with the optional Flux Capacitor USB clock card ($600). Without the clock card, he found that "the magic was lessened." With the USB clock card, depth was "quite good, if not as deep as through my reference Nucleus+ with external linear power supply." JVS felt the Wolf server was a better match with darker-toned ancillary components but summed up his review by writing "Match the Wolf Alpha 3 SX with the right components, and you may end up howling for joy." (Vol.42 No.1, Alpha 3 WWW; Vol.43 No.5, Alpha 3 SX WWW)

A

Bryston BDP-3: $4195 ★
In February 2017, Bryston upgraded their BDP-2 digital player to BDP-3 status, with refinements including an even faster Intel Quad-core processor; a Bryston-manufactured integrated audio device (IAD) in place of a soundcard; a custom Intel Celeron motherboard; a bigger power supply; and two additional USB ports, for a total of eight—three of which use the faster USB 3.0 protocol. Bryston's tried-and-true player now supports up to 32/384 PCM and DSD128. The BDP-3 supports Tidal, and can be configured as a Roon endpoint. LG sent his BDP-2 to the Bryston factory for conversion to BDP-3 status (a $1500 upgrade) and found that the new media-player software displays more album art and metadata; more important, he found slight improvements in sound over the BDP-2, including improved bass extension and clearer, more open, more detailed presentations of well-recorded choral music. LG'S current reference. (Vol.41 No.1 WWW)

Melco N50 digital music library: $5499 w/3.84TB storage
The slim, Roon Ready N50 includes internal storage and has two Ethernet ports and four USB 3.0 ports, one of which is optimized for sending audio data to a USB-connected DAC. KR found that the front-panel controls and the small alphanumeric display worked fine for setup and basic music selection, but quickly realized that the Melco Music App running on an iPad—there's no Android support—was essential for selecting music and making the Melco enjoyable to use. Once the N50 was connected to KR's local network, the app's "Library" choices included every audio file on every device on his LAN. He summed up that the Melco "lets you engage with the music and does nothing to intrude on that engagement. That's its role, and it performs it well. Crucially, it does nothing to degrade sound quality. Especially when playing from its internal storage, the N50 is responsive." (Vol.45 No.6 WWW)

NAIM ND5 XS 2: $3999
Built around Naim's proprietary streaming platform, the ND5 XS 2 player—at present the company's entry-level model—can be used wirelessly or via an Ethernet connection to the user's router or network switch. Depending on file type, the Naim supports PCM up to 32/384 and DSD to DSD128, but does not unfold MQA content. The Roon-ready ND5 XS 2 supports Tidal, Chromecast, and Spotify, with Qobuz compatibility said to be in the works. AD found the Naim sounded its best with files played from his laptop via Roon—and that was very good indeed, a beloved Beck track in particular sounding "as good and big and compelling" as he'd ever heard it. Writing from his test bench, JA noted that he was "puzzled" by the Naim's less-than-straightforward jitter performance but noted that the player "otherwise . . . turns in respectable measured performance." AD's conclusion: "a good-sounding, pleasant-to-use player that offers very good value." (Vol.42 No.4 WWW)

Sony DMP-Z1 digital music player: $8499.99
Weighing as it does a little over 5lb, the Sony DMP-Z1 is less of a Walkman (as the manufacturer describes it) than a SitInTheLimoMan (as JA describes it); however it's labeled, this media player/digital processor/headphone amplifier is unambiguously a luxury product, with convenience features that include a top-mounted color touchscreen; two slots for microSD cards; Bluetooth alongside USB connectivity; MQA support; and a big, gold-plated-brass volume knob—plus user-selectable reconstruction filters and DSP functions. The Sony rewarded JA with sound with "excellent low-frequency weight" but that was a bit too mellow with darker-than-neutral 'phones such as his AudioQuest NightHawks—Audeze LCD-Xes were a better match. "An MQA-encoded classical track sounded simply glorious through the Sony." JA-the-measurer confirmed the impressions of JA-the-listener, noting "superb measured performance, indicative of equally superb analog and digital audio engineering." (Vol.42 No.8 WWW)

B

Cyrus CDi-XR: $2999
KM found that this diminutive, well-finished CD player from the UK offered greater weight and punch than the same music when streamed via a Denfrips Ares II D/A processor. However, on some recordings he wrote that "this manifested as tonal thickness and a loss of transparency. Streaming tended to excel at treble, detail, and upper register air but often gave up some presence and weight." The CDi-XR is "a good CD player and a solid value," he concluded. In the test lab, JA found that the Cyrus inverted absolute polarity and that its error correction was not as good as that of the best players or transports that he had measured in recent years. (Vol.45 No.4 WWW)

Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra: $899 $$$
This relatively affordable server/network bridge runs a customized Volumio operating system, which resides in its 12.79GB onboard memory, and can be controlled by either a Web browser or Pro-Ject's own iOS app; it can also be used as a Roon endpoint. Network connectivity is via Ethernet or Wi-Fi (an antenna is included). Tidal and Spotify streaming services are supported, as is Shoutcast internet radio, and the Stream Box S2 Ultra supports PCM up to 32/352.8 and DSD up to DSD256. In JA's system, the Pro-Ject network bridge, controlled by its free app and with a USB-connected DAC, produced sound that was "indistinguishable from that using my [Roon] Nucleus+ with Roon to stream audio over my Ethernet-wired network. Not bad for something that costs only one-third the Roon server's price." (Vol.42 No.4 WWW)

Volumio Primo Streamer: €649 $$$
This Ethernet-connected streamer may be small and affordable, but, controlled by the open-source Volumio app or by Roon via a plug-in, it offers full functionality with music libraries stored on NAS drives. (It doesn't have internal storage for audio files.) The Primo is based on the ASUS Tinker Board single-board computer, to which Volumio has added an audio processing board. When turned on, it establishes a Wi-Fi "hotspot," allowing control via tablets or smartphones. A USB output port can send audio data to a separate D/A processor, but the Primo also offers high-quality analog outputs for those who value system simplicity. (KR reported that these outputs sounded clean and balanced, with impact and scale.) KR wrote that "the Volumio Primo is a neat little music player. Its sound was clean and balanced through any of my three DACs," though he did add that his DACs sounded more dynamic and open when the significantly more expensive Baetis or Pink Faun players were sending the data. While the Primo's hardware was underpowered for KR's downsampling/multichannel/DSP needs, he concluded that "if your music library and streaming sources are stereo only, and you intend to use the Primo's very good ESS DAC, I can recommend it highly." (Vol.44 No.2 WWW)

Deletions
ATC CDA2 Mk2, not auditioned in a long time.

COMMENTS
Auditor's picture

The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

John Atkinson's picture
Auditor wrote:
The text under the J. Sikora Initial is the same as under the J. Sikora Reference, which is obviously a mistake.

Fixed. Thank you.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

lesmarshall's picture

I was very surprised to read that the Benchmark DAC 3 is no longer a Recommended Component . In the earlier 2022 edition of Recommend Components , it was an A+ component . Your stated reason for the deletion was because it was not auditioned in a long while . Well why not audition it then ? Also, why is an audition necessary ? It measured as one of the best DACs ever . Why would its measurements change simply because you have not auditioned it recently ? I understand its your policy , but it seems rather unfair to Benchmark that you no longer recommend it for that reason . I believe a much fairer policy would be that a highly rated component should only fall off the recommended list if it is auditioned periodically and you determine that its current level of recommendation is no longer justified based on the factors that you use to include a component of the recommended list .

JRT's picture

Les, toward some light hearted amusement, consider a reductio ad absurdum.

The quoted material below was excerpted from the first version (published 01 May 1963) of Stereophile's recommended components, just the A,B,C rated amplifiers and preamplifiers:

Quote:

Preamplifier-Control Units
A: Marantz 7, McIntosh C-20
B, C: Dynaco PAS-2

Power Amplifiers
A: Marantz 8B, McIntosh MC-60 (footnote 5), Marantz 9A (footnote 5)
B, C: Dynaco Stereo 70

Footnote 5: mono amplifier.

Reductio ad Absurdum... Should the old gear listed above continue as currently recommended gear, or is it best left in its original context in the circa 1963 article? ...and why or why not? ...and is it a much too different set of cases for comparison? ...why? Would that old gear be good fodder for a listing of recommended vintage gear, and is that good subject matter for the current Stereophile readership? These are mostly rhetorical questions, but not all.

JRT's picture

Would you also include the essentially similar PAS-3, and then also the PAS-3X with updated tone controls, and then maybe also Frank van Alstine's improved Super PAS Three, etc.? The original short-list can grow large.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/recommended-components-1-0

https://www.stereophile.com/tubepreamps/1088vana/index.html

georgehifi's picture

It would be nice if the "title" of the piece recommended was clickable, so one could easily then read the full review of all these thousands of "recommended components" instead of searching like a ???

Just a thought??

Cheers George

liquidsun's picture

I must say I'm surprised to see Perlistens into Restricted Extreme LF category as I thought they were full range speakers.

Kal Rubinson's picture

For most, they will be full range but, as you can see from JA's Fig. 4, the FR is rolling off smoothly below 100HZ such that it will easily mate with a complementary subwoofer. I believe that was Perlisten's intent. That said, unless you are assessing the sound of low, low organ pedal tones, explosions or thunder, the bass from the s7t is clean, powerful and musically satisfying.

Robin Landseadel's picture

There's a lot of Dance Pop/Techno music that gives the lowest octave a workout. Managed to blow out the small bass driver from a Paradigm bookshelf speaker with a Sarah McLaughlan track---"I Love You" from the album "Surfacing"---a quiet ballad with a synth bottom without overtones, so there's pure, deep bass. Another good example would be the work of Bill Laswell, a producer/bass player.

Kal Rubinson's picture

OK but how is this relevant? On the one hand, I am not surprised that one can blow out the small bass driver in a bookshelf speaker. On the other, I doubt if it would do that to the Perlisten.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Blowing out the driver of a Paradigm Atom might not be meaningful save that I blew it out with a track that is low in level and undynamic. More to the point, it sounds like the speakers in question could use a sub. Of course, you pointed out that the speakers in question are designed to integrate well with subs. My Infinity 250 speakers, small floor-standing speakers, also requires a sub for deep bass.

What is meaningful is that there is more to the bottom octave than organ pedals and explosions. Lots of modern productions take advantage of digital recording/playback's ability to record/reproduce the lowest octaves of sound.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Yes, there is a lot more to the bottom end than I cared to mention but the distinction between the small Paradigm Atom and the s7t is that the former needs a sub (or a LP filter) merely to survive wide-band signals while the latter does not.

Did you read my comments about the Garage Door test? I doubt that either your Paradigm or your Infinity could compete with the Perlisten, with or without a sub.

Robin Landseadel's picture

Doubtless. My point was more about program material and really deep bass. In any case, my Infinity Primus 250s are aided by my Sonance Son of Sub. As the system is in a small room, it's probably as much bass as the room can take.

Anton's picture

I like to hit this issue and pretend all my Hi Fi gear is gone and I have to start over with my budget and this list.

Glotz's picture

Droooooool.. and I'm done FOREVER.

Soulution, MBL... heaven.

KEFLS50W's picture

It will be interesting to see if Stereophile catches up to the focus on active, integrated designs. The relevance of separates seems to be waning in comparison to these sexy and modern designs (many of which are good value to boot) from KEF, B&W, Q Acoustic, ATC, Dali, and others. LS50WII for example gives me access to high quality, high current class a/b amplification I would not have been able to afford with separates. On another note, why are REL subs not listed - they would floor the competition listed in terms of sonics and build quality. Sorry but SVS is a home theater product and KEF KC62 is for kids.

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