Category Archives: Digital IO

Naim Mu-So In The Lottery


Naim Mu-SoNaim have put a Naim Mu-So up for draws among customers who purchase a Hi-resolution digital album from their music shop. The Mu-So is Naim’s take on a wireless, monolithic speaker to compete with products such as B&W Zeppelin. Inline with Naim’s usual graphic style, the Mu-So has a visual punch unlike most other products in its genre. It streams everything up to 24-bit/192kHz Flac on a wired connection and plays it back at 75W per channel. Unusual among its peers it supports multi-room streaming with more Mu-Sos connected and is controlled by either an iOS or Android device or via the [equally] unusually rudimentary remote that comes with the package.

Norwegian Bits Are Just Purer

ECM-2-header2

Norwegian high-end dominatrices Electrocompaniet, have entered the stage and now offer digital purity for the discriminating audiophile. The ECM2 is a no-frills streamer that plays from a multitude of sources, from low-fi internet services to hi-res digital masters on your network. What stands this device apart in the world of inch-thick aluminium fronts, is the EMC2’s ability to stream video in HD. And not just that; it does it in 24bit/192KHz! Take a bite at that!

Digital attenuation allows you to stick it straight into the power amp and lets you sit in the couch and do you business straight from a phone of your choice [if it runs iOS or Android, that is] or from a DLNA controller.

Bluesound

01Canadian newcomers (and to some extent, former NAD dudes) Bluesound are going abroad with their jazzy looking 24-bit audio streaming system. A few weeks ago they appeared in Hifiklubben in Sweden and now they are available in Denmark as well. The system includes an optional server, ever so aptly named Vault, which can rip CDs in numerous formats, store them and stream them to the Bluesound players as well as act as a player itself. The satellite players come in three flavors: Node, Powernode and Pulse. The Node is a streaming client with analogue and digital outputs, natively supporting up to 192KHz sampling rates. The Powernode is akin to the Node adding a 90W class D amplifier to free it from a hifi system. The Pulse is a completely self contained system with 80W amp and speakers. In other words, a system not unlike the Sonos family; except in 24-bit resolution.

Control is done from a desktop computer or from the now ubiquitous smartphone or tablet. Presently only iOS and Android is supported.

Unlike Sonos, the Bluesound devices can access files from USB devices. It is unclear if each device can stream these auxiliary inputs autonomously, though.

Sonos Playbar

playbarSince some time last year, when the Sonos Playbar name showed up in FCC findings, rumors have speculated on whether it was a TV-playbar for surround sound or something more like a under-cupboard-music-bar. Then last week Sonos lifted the curtain to what indeed turned out to be a surround sound bar for the TV.

The idea is pretty nigh hand, considering the ever present conundrum of wiring satellites and minimising the cable chaos in general. On its own, the Playbar gives you 2.1 system. Add a Sonos Sub and you automatically get 3.1 and add another 2 Play:3’s at the rear and you get full 5.1. Further than that it cannot go, but for most it should suffice. The other Sonos components cannot be paired with the Playbar for surround because they don’t have the sufficient wifi-specs for the low latency needed to sync with video.

Cambridge Audio Sonata NP30

Sonata NP30 Cambridge Audio have been lurking in the streamer business for years but have been hard pressed show any appearance on the shop shelves. Now it looks as if they are finally getting to a shop near me with their recently announced Sonata NP30 Network Music Player. The apparatus is neatly designed yet slightly on the conservative side of the front panel fence.

On the spec side the player offers 24-bit/96KHz playback of Flac and other formats through its Wolfson DAC, streaming from a variety of sources – wired and not.

As with everything else on this planet, the device can be remote controlled from the ever present iPad/iPod/iPhone.

Head-Direct HifiMan HM-602

HifiMan HM-602 Last year audiophile Fang Bian released a first shot at a true high-fidelity portable audio player (we can’t go around calling it an MP3 player now, can we – let alone a walkman!?) with a slightly bulky exterior boasting some really impressive specs. It even had a detachable amplifier section. Now he has gone and done it again, releasing a somewhat smaller but definitely not less impressively spec’d player. The HM-602 uses a Philips TDA-1543 dual DAC to support 24bit/96KHz Flac files as well as Ogg Vorbis. When you are not out there jogging in a crystal clear soundscape, the HM-602 can be used as a USB DAC feeding off of your computer stocked music.

It may not run Angry Birds or remote control your garden sprinkler, but at a price somewhat lower than your average iPod, this is quite an interesting piece of hi-fi equipment that does one thing and one thing only: Deliver sound.

Devialet D-Premier


Conditionnement DevialetThis Fritz Langian breathe-on-it-and-it-tranfers-your-brain digital amplifier and world-domination-in-a-chrome-box, is simply the most awe inspiring piece of hi-fi equipment I have seen in a long time. Inside a sleek chrome box, it harbors 240 watts of weird class A and D combinatrix, 24-bit/192KHz DAC, SD card reader, wifi connectivity and streaming over network. And that is not all… look at that remote. I know a remote has fairly little to do with soundstage and transparency; but look at it! Is that cool or what?!

Outputs include XLR and HDMI, and they are routable (!). On the input side it goes novel even more by including a programmable phono stage to satisfy most, if not all but the most pernickety, vinyl lovers. What can I say? I want one!

Marantz NA7004


NA7004Marantz for me always stood for good old conservative ways and champagne colored aluminium bezels. Never as a technology frontloader. Perhaps that is the reason why they had me on this one. I didn’t see it coming.

Last year Marantz released the NA7004, which by a quick glance looks like any other Marantz component. But it ain’t! Under the hood lurks a three piece DAC, audio streaming and that all too rare Flac support. The NA7004 will discover DLNA compatible servers and play your music as the audio gods intended. It interconnects with other Marantz components and boasts a well laid out front. And HD? Well, it goes aaaalll the way pal.

Olive O6HD

o6hd_silver_front_angleOlive has been on the media streamer market for the better part of the market’s existence, yet hasn’t made much noise. Their latest initiative could be here to change that: The world’s first HD Audiophile Server. That is what they call it and looking at the specs, it’s definitely the world’s first something, even if others have touched on this before. The Linn DS is definitely up there (with a slightly more rabid price tag) and so is the NaimUniti Serve. The latter being a really attractive setup in its family configuration of server, players and mini players.

The device itself is cool if not exactly novel. The design is like other Olives, slightly unusual and definitely not very shelf-friendly.  The slanted cabinet has a touch screen on top and a handful of heavy duty connectors on the back. The front has a slot for ripping CDs. To get you going, the O6HD comes pre-installed with 12 HD tracks from Chesky records. Hand-built in America and all, it will look good on a serving table or something.

The power supply is split into two, to feed analog and digital circuits with each their own chill filtered juice. The DACs are 24-bit Burr-Brown PCM1792 supporting high resolution conversion of 24-bit/192KHz. It comes with 2TB of storage, letting you rip quite a bit of CDs, at least in 16-bit resolution. At full resolution it is not one byte too much. Unfortunately the CD transport is just that. A CD drive. It doesn’t support DVD or SACD so the only option for actually getting any HD content is to rip it elsewhere or download HD tracks.

A rather cool feature is genre specific tags. Only information pertaining to the specific type of music is shown in the genre navigation. That is really good news for classical music connoisseurs. Add to that a bit of color coding and a bloody nice glass touch screen, and you have a pretty nifty dashboard. The ever present iPhone / iPod Touch remote isn’t missing either.

Bang & Olufsen Beosound 8


bosound8Bang & Olufsen has joined the iPod dock wagon and done it in as much style as one has come to expect. Equally expectable is the lack of vision in as much as the Beosound 8 does not support wireless audio streaming. Instead Bang & Olufsen relies on external devices for streaming, such as the Apple Airport (which they explicitly mention) or presumably anything with a Toslink connector such as Logitech Squeezebox.

A bit more novel is that support for Apple’s iPad. Anything Apple will fit in the connector. Drop in an iPad and you have yourself a pretty nice transistor radio with room adapting sound processing. Nice. Less nice, of course, is the fact that anything not Apple, is pretty much left out to dry.

As iPod docks go, this one looks good. Incredibly good, in fact. But iPod docks are legion. Did someone say “been there – done that”?

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