Category Archives: Digital IO

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”?

Naim UnitiServe

UnitiServeWith the UnitiServe, British Naim completes their Unity system. The UnitiServe is a Windows XP Embedded based media server with a built in Red Book CD drive. The server supports a multitude of audio formats, including Flac at a resolution of up to 24bit/192KHz. The innards include parts from equally cool British lads, Digital Fidelity.

The main idea, of course, is for the UnitiServe to act as a server for multitude of NaimUniti and UnitiQute clients already casually spread across your house. It supports streaming unique content to 6 simultaneous receivers. But being a full fledged DLNA server, it will do the biddings of any compliant device on your home network.

The UnitiServe comes with 1TB of disk space or, if you so prefer, with only a 16GB SSD disk, requiring a NAS for its data.


Naim UnitiQute

NaimQute The people who gave us the NaimUnity last year have gone and done it again. This time with a cute little device aptly and cleverly named The UnitiQute. The main difference from the NaimUnity is the absence of a CD transport. In other words, the UnitiQute is for those who don’t care about perloid plastic discs or those who have a plenty of sound elsewhere and needs an extension.

The front is sleek and minimalistic and very Naim.  The back panel abundant with connectors for all things digital and a few analogue for good measure. The UnitiQute streams from internet radio stations and from network storage devices, be it a regular NAS or that equally sleek Naim HDX in the living room. In addition to networked music, the UnitiQute plays music from attached devices, such as iPods and USB harddrives.

Flac support of up to 24bit/96KHz puts it well in the clear with the competition. With a built-in amplifier yielding 30W of smooth niceness it is fairly self contained and should fit any small living area. Put an HDX in the study with your Focals, a Unity in the living room and a Qute in the bed room and your retirement is pretty much secured.

Apple Airport Express

Apple Airport Express The Apple Airport Express is not new by a long shot, 6 years in fact, but it does sport a nice feature making it worth mentioning anyway, a feature I failed to mention when commenting on Apple TV: They act as a remote output through what Apple has aptly named Airtunes. You can select Airports and Apple TVs around the house when playing songs from iTunes and have them play through one or more simultaneously. What is more, it has a Toslink connector buried inside the miniscule output jack for a purely digital connection to your sound system, should it support it. Actually, the Toslink connector is much preferred over the analog output due to excessive and quite audible hum from the built-in power supply.

Apple Airport Express There are a few catches. You cannot kill a connection initiated by one computer from another, i.e. you cannot start your music from the computer in the office and then when you get to the kitchen, take a computer there and select another song. This can be a major hassle [to be very diplomatic] if you use more than a few computers. Also you are pretty much limited to playing music via iTunes. There are a few hacks out there allowing you to route sound from other applications to an Airport, such as Airfoil from Rogue Amoeba, but these tools are compromises. Particularly latency is a big issue, especially when watching video and routing the sound elsewhere. Applications competing for the Airtunes connection is another issue adding to the brew of annoyances. Having to manually kill a connection made by Airfoil to open one for iTunes is certainly not befitting my workflow.

Setting up an Airport is straight forward. With it comes a setup application that browses the network for Airports and lets you connect to whichever one you like and configure it. Should you have special needs in terms of authentication protocols or topologies it lets you handle that too, albeit considerably less elegantly.

The Apple Airport Express costs next to nothing so if you already use iTunes, this is a really cost efficient means to a distributed music system. Airtunes has some design flaws but works remarkably well considering.

Linn Majik DS-I

Linn Majik DS-I I may be pushing the icons above a bit on this one, since Linn has not yet disclosed anything specific on their new compact. Following in the footsteps of Naim and their Uniti, Linn has gone and committed a similar product. A complete unit, albeit sans the radio and the transport. Okay, so it isn’t a complete system. It does, however, appear that the Linn Majik DS-I has everything in the realm of in- and output. Even a phono input. All you need is a tuner for the BBC must-haves, a CD transport for the not-yet-ripped CDs and a pair of speakers that can receive the angel dust from the DS and sprinkle your abode with magic.

Parrot RKi8400

Parrot RKi8400 There are many more or less curious ways to get digital sound into your car many of which involve some sort of iPod connectivity. With this car sound system, Parrot have brewed themselves a concoction that raises itself above the rest, at least in terms of user experience.

All the standard stuff such as FM radio, Bluetooth hands free  and Bluetooth audio streaming (A2DP), and MP3 playback from memory card is there, in a 4x50W package. On top of that it can play music from an iPod. Not through some old fashioned analogue jack but through a genuine iPod dock that lets you browse music complete with album covers and track information on a built in colour display. Nice.

Sony NAS-Z200iR and CMT-Z100iR

Sony CMT-Z100iR Now we are back to some bona fide digital news. Sony just announced a new system consisting of a media streaming apparatus called NAS-Z200iR. As to why Sony have chosen to use the term NAS in the name is a bit of a conundrum, since the device does in fact not have any storage to share. What it will do, however, is receive music from a DLNA compatible server (meaning pretty much everything), host an iPod in a docking station or play a CD. It even has an old fashioned AM/FM radio for when the internet radio stations are not enough. How about that?

On a curious note aside, the NAS lets you control an iPod from a wireless remote roughly twice the size of an iPod Touch. I know, I know. You get speakers and amps and stuff. But still. If you look past all that.

At the same time Sony announced another device called CMT-Z100iR. It looks roughly like the big sister NAS, but instead of having everything remote controlled, controls are mounted on the base of the iPod dock. This one comes in white as well. Pretty cool looking too.

Specs have not been revealed yet for either device. Can’t be long, though.

Peachtree Audio Nova

novaThe rather unusual integrated amplifier, Peachtree Audio Decco has now been granted an older brother (entsippled?) which has yet to have its specs properly disclosed. What is clear is that it sports 80W under the hood and a 24bit/192KHz DAC. The design is sligtly purer than the Decco but otherwise the same.

One thing is new, though. This is what they say on the web site:

“Even compressed MP3 files sound almost indistinguishable from the original CD when played through the Nova or Decco”.

What? Have their brains melted? That’s like saying that snow chains will keep your ears warm*.

*Which in fact they might when used outside the recommendations normally given in the manual.

Perreaux éloquence 250i

Perreaux éloquence While claiming to be the most powerful integrated amplifier in the world seems a bit much given the specs, this certainly is an impressive piece of machinery. Not that amplifiers normally stream much except for the odd electron, this amp stands out thanks to an unusual approach to modularity allowing you to extend it with not only a RIAA module but also letting you add a 24bit/192KHz DAC with 5 inputs, including USB. In other words: It really does earn a place on this blog.

On the standard connectivity side there are balanced XLR inputs and the ever present iPod connector on the front; actually this is simply a 3.5mm analogue jack which accepts anything that can be squeezed in there. Nothing unusual there.

A bold statement from the land of the hobbits and  one to watch at that.

Sony STR-DA6400ES

Sony STR-DA6400ES Sony have announced a new line of home theatre receivers creaming the competition with a top model 7.1 receiver showing some rather unusual features.

The STR-6400ES is not just network enabled. It streams music from your network like most modern systems. IT relays internet radio through a SHOUTcast service along with a number of the discrete inputs on the system, such as CD, turntable and radio. It even sends video to a second zone with its own set of OSD menus for controlling the signal.

With a backplane measured in square meters and some rather impressive specs, this is not at all an uninteresting piece of equipment for those about to bedazzle their TV apparatus (apparatii?).

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