Media Server Reviews

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Kalman Rubinson  |  Jun 26, 2018  |  62 comments
Lovers of high-resolution multichannel sound still don't have it easy. While the two-channel market is replete with snazzy, efficient music servers in stylish boxes, the only multichannel equivalents are Merging Technologies' Merging+Player Multichannel-8, and a handful of stereo devices that are rumored to do multichannel, though no such claims are made in print. To be candid, the latter will play multichannel tracks via USB, Ethernet, or HDMI outputs to suitable DACs (but that's another story), but because they're aimed at the two-channel market, they tend to skimp on the CPU horsepower and RAM needed to handle higher-resolution multichannel files. Even the Merging+Player Multichannel-8 ($13,500), with its Intel i3 CPU running Roon, couldn't entirely keep up with everything in my library.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 10, 2019  |  1 comments
Although I no longer attend the audio pageant that was once the annual Consumer Electronics Show, I now seem to be traveling more, in hopes of recapturing the excitement CES had once provided. Last May I attended High End, in Munich, and found that while it was entirely as advertised, there was, alas, not enough emphasis on the playback of high-resolution files, and hardly any attention paid to multichannel music.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Feb 26, 2019  |  14 comments
One of the recurring themes of this column has been my search for servers that will support the playback of high-resolution multichannel files with DSP for speaker/room equalization (EQ), as well as the format conversion and downsampling that are often part of those processes. Because most EQ software is PCM-based, format comversion is needed to convert DSD files to PCM. In addition, because most EQ products work within a limited range of sampling rates, PCM files sampled at high rates may have to be downsampled before being subjected to EQ. Those of us who use home-theater preamplifier-processors and audio/video receivers (AVRs) should be familiar with such constraints.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Aug 29, 2019  |  10 comments
There is necessity as well as comfort in having a long-term reference recordings and, system. The necessity derives from the familiarity with the reference that allows for comparisons and contrasts with the equipment being tested. The comfort that comes from the familiarity lets me relax and enjoy recreational music, relieved from the need to focus my attention intently on the sound. I do relish getting my hands on lots of interesting audio equipment and getting to play it in my own home, but it's like a two-month one-night stand: The new stuff usually goes back even if I am impressed. I don't change my audio equipment often.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 24, 2008  |  0 comments
"Physical discs seem so 20th century!" That's how I ended my eNewsletter review of the Logitech (then Slim Devices) Squeezebox WiFi music server in April 2006, and it seems that increasing numbers of Stereophile readers agree with me. In our website poll of January 5, 2008, we asked, "Are you ready for an audiophile music server?" The response to that question was the highest we have experienced: 32% of respondents already listen to music via their computer networks, many using home-brewed solutions, and 44% intend to. We've published a lot of material on this subject in the last five years, and it seemed a good idea to sum it up in this article.
Jon Iverson  |  Mar 08, 2012  |  1 comments
The taxonomy of audio products used to be easy. An amp, a preamp, speakers, a disc player or two—done. Now that hard drives, streaming clouds, and computers have entered the scene, unless your world revolves around only an iPod or a disc player, you have choices—lots of choices.
Jim Austin  |  Aug 27, 2019  |  29 comments
A DAC/preamp/headphone amp from Class A of Stereophile's list of Recommended Components, updated with streaming and network-server capabilities—and it still sells for less than $3000? If you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. (Har, har!)

Most Americans have heard that line before, but many may not know the story behind it—I didn't. George C. Parker, a real American person born in 1860, is famous for perpetrating audacious frauds, specifically sales of property he did not own and could not possibly have owned. He is reported to have sold the Statue of Liberty, Grant's Tomb, the original Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and—most famously—the Brooklyn Bridge that last one twice a week for several years, at prices ranging from $75 to $5000. Or so some say.

John Atkinson  |  Dec 23, 2019  |  32 comments
High-quality playback of digital audio is evolving in two opposed directions. One is where a smart wireless loudspeaker, like the KEF LSX or DALI Callisto 6 C, needs to be connected to a simple source of data. The other is where a smart amplifier takes the data from wherever it needs and sends it to a pair of dumb loudspeakers. NAD's Masters Series M32 integrated amplifier ($4848 with its optional MDC DD-BluOS module), which I reviewed in May 2018, is a great-sounding example of the latter approach.

In the spring of 2019, NAD introduced the Masters Series M10 ($2749). At first I assumed that the M10 was a stripped-down, less-powerful version of the M32, but the new amplifier offers a unique set of features.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Sep 28, 2020  |  11 comments
On the cold and sunny morning of February 19, 2020, a dozen or so audio critics and writers gathered at Gilmore's Sound Advice on New York's far West Side to see some new NAD and DALI products that had been unveiled the prior month at CES. It was a friendly group, and we kibitzed over coffee before clustering in the arranged seats for presentations and auditions. I doubt any of us realized that it would be the last time for the foreseeable future that we would experience this familiar rite.
John Atkinson  |  May 02, 2014  |  8 comments
"Physical discs are so 20th century," I wrote back in 2006, when I began experimenting with using, in my high-end rig, a computer as a legitimate source of music. These days I rarely pop a disc into my Ayre Acoustics C-5xeMP disc player, unless it's an SACD I want to hear, or a CD I haven't yet ripped into my library. But many audiophiles, even if attracted to the idea of using a file-based system as a primary music source, do not want a computer in their listening rooms. Nor do they want to be bothered by the fact that a computer demands too intimate a relationship with its user.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 28, 2017  |  1 comments
Back in May 2014, I reviewed NAD's Masters Series M50 Digital Music Player ($2499) and M52 Digital Music Vault ($1999 with 2TB storage). At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, NAD announced the M50.2, which is almost identical to the original M50 but now incorporates two 2TB hard disks, arranged as a 2TB RAID array, to ensure data integrity, and adds TosLink and coaxial digital inputs, Bluetooth with aptX for streaming music from a smartphone or tablet, and two single-ended analog inputs—all for $3999, or $499 less than the combined cost of the two earlier products. Like the M50, the M50.2 offers WiFi and Ethernet connectivity, and has a CD drive, accessible via a slot on the front panel under the color TFT touchscreen, that can be used to play CDs, or rip them as FLAC, WAV, or high-bit-rate MP3 files.
Ken Micallef  |  Feb 15, 2018  |  27 comments
Audiophiles are oblivious to the low-end music-reproduction medium that's currently staging a comeback: the cassette tape (footnote 1). I've adopted the cassette craze in my own small way. I glory in the trusted mixtape, which I play in the stereo cassette deck of my 1990s Toyota. An automobile is a dearly cherished possession in New York City; when I cruise the outer boroughs on Sunday, I want tunes galore. So I retrieved my 1996 Aiwa cassette deck, and, attic-bound as it had been for 20 years, it was in need of repair. Via Yelp, I came across Hi-Tech Electronics, a small repair-everything-electronic shop at the east end of Canal Street, in New York's Chinatown, and a mother lode of classic audio gear and audiophile nostalgia.
Art Dudley  |  Mar 19, 2019  |  8 comments
The late Julian Vereker, the sharp-minded former racing driver who founded Naim Audio and designed its first products, did so because he wanted audio amplification of a quality he felt no one else was making at the time, reasoning that if he wanted such a thing, so might others. Thus came about Naim's first domestic-audio product, the distinctive NAP200 solid-state amp (1973).
John Atkinson  |  Apr 09, 2006  |  0 comments
How to integrate a computer into a high-end audio system is a hot topic these days. I'm getting more and more e-mails from readers asking for advice, Wes Phillips wrote about transferring his LPs to audio files in his October and November newsletters, and a lively thread on this topic ran on the forum at www.stereophile.com.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 27, 2020  |  19 comments
My, how we've grown! The experience that convinced me of the inevitability of streaming was in 2010 with the tiny, tidy Logitech Squeezebox Touch that, despite being discontinued and disowned by its manufacturer, still has a cult-like following. Since then, we have seen an explosion of devices for file playback from local or nonlocal storage and web streams.

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