Category Archives: Ogg-Vorbis

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.

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.

NaimUniti

Naim have always been associated with extreme high end and baffled the world not long ago when they extended their product line to Bentley in-car hifi with KW-fed 11 speaker extravaganza and a price tag to fit the car. Well, none of that. Now Naim went out and did an all-in-one package for the home sporting some rather nice specs and a compactness leaving little else to be desired.

Naim Uniti The NaimUniti is a 50W integrated FM/DAB receiver with built-in CD transport and internet connectivity. It accepts USB devices, controls an iPod, reads CD-R discs and streams music from the network, including internet radio stations. Ogg Vorbis and Flac are supported as is Apple Lossless. On the input side there are 5 digital and 4 analogue. The latter including one specifically for the Naim Stageline phono stage for all that vinyl screaming for attention and so often forgotten in other solutions.

Logitech Squeezebox Boom


Squeezebox Boom Adding to their Squeezebox line-up, Logitech has recently released their Squeezebox Boom. It uses the same technology as the Squeezebox Duet, in fact it can be controlled from the same remote and be a part of a system. Not entirely unlike the Sonos players that also come in a line-out unamplified version and one with a 50W power stage. The Squeezebox Boom just adds a pair of built-in speakers to make it an autonomous unit.

With specs like its sister device, sound quality is only limited to the quality of the amplifier and the miniscule speakers which, incidentally, sound incredibly good for their size. There is a 7-day alarm clock [with a built-in snooze button, no less] and automatic dimming of the display, making this perfect for a bedroom setup.

First impressions are that of a solid device. It is heavy and feels rather rugged in its rubbery front panel covering and shiny cabinet. Buttons operate smoothly and the remote, however small, feels good even in large hands and has quite a good reach. The display may seem old fashioned but the fact is that this type of Nixie-look-a-like display works very well in a dimly lit room, where color LCDs have a tendency to be overly bright. In addition to the ever present Squeezebox controls, the front panel offers 6 preset buttons that can be programmed directly from the device or from a Squeezebox Server using the KidsPlay plugin. Using this plugin gives you an almost unbelievable amount of programming options, such as (but all but limited to) choosing a random mix of tracks of a given genre while showing a brief message on the display as to which genre that is while clearing previous playlist selections. Nice, eh? In fact, it is difficult not to fiddle.

Should you need to, the Squeezebox Boom can be mounted in several positions with an optional L-bracket.

Pinnacle Audio athenaeum

athenaeumI think the guys at Bel Canto may have had a finger in the soup when Pinnacle Audio named this raw beast. House of Athena? Whichever way you look at it, it is a beautiful name for a device that would more aptly be called a machine.

The athenaeum holds up to 4 750GB harddisks for a total of 3TB of disk space and unlike any other streamer I know of [at least of the type befitting this blog] supports RAID1. Supported file format include Flac and Ogg-Vorbis but it can rip to MP3 and AAC as well. The device is managed from a web interface or from the included [wifi enabled] remote control with colour touch screen.

The athenaeum has a smaller sister called folio. The folio has roughly the same specs but has only 2 fixed disks instead of 4 replaceable. It comes in 2x250GB, 2x500GB and 2x750GB flavours. Ample space for most, even in Flac.

Oh, and guess what?! The brochure for the athenaeum quotes Henry VIII… “In sweet music is such art”. Could it be an ode to miss Capulet?

Sonos Digital Music System

sonosbundleThe Sonos Digital Music System is more than just a streamer. It consists of a server connected via twisted pair to your network and a controller with a color display. The server relays music to other Sonos devices via their own proprietary wireless network optimized for audio. All Sonos devices can play either their own playlists or play in sync. Everything controlled from the neat little handheld remote.

If you have more than one device only one of them needs to be physically connected to the network. The others receive their data wirelessly from there. There are three different types of devices to choose from: The ZoneBridge that does nothing except bridge the physical and wireless network – an access point, if you will, and two ZonePlayers that have actual playing capabilities. One of these ZonePlayers comes with a built in amplifier – the other without. In my book it is the latter that is most interesting. You simply connect it to your existing system – maybe even with a Benchmark Dac1 for conversion.

The entire system is controlled from up to 32 controllers or from a PC using some cool looking software – very nicely laid out.


Arcus DAR300

dar300 Esteemed Arcus has a potent player in the game of CD ripping audio servers. This one can copy CD onto its internal hard drive, back it up onto a network attached storage and play it back in a number of formats, including Flac and Ogg-Vorbis.

Wireless communication is done using a USB Wifi dongle. Not exactly elegant but at least it lets you move the antenna to higher ground for good reception. Identifying itself over uPnP, other streaming clients can take advantage of the device.

Logitech Squeezebox Duet


duethandset This is a clever device, in that it detaches navigation from the device completely and uses only the remote. The remote control has a small color LCD display which shows everything from playlists to album cover artwork. More Squeezeboxes can be linked together between rooms and either play different tracks or in-sync.

Just like with the Transporter, Logitech-owned Slim Devices once more shows true excellence in spec writing. One thing, however, they managed to keep somewhat hidden, is the fact that the Duet [unlike the Transporter] only supports streaming from their own SqueezeCenter server software. You cannot, in other words, stream from just any media enabled NAS disk or directly from a file server.

Like its bigger brother it supports Flac and Ogg-Vorbis. Indeed a neat device, even considering its obvious short coming.


Logitech Transporter


transporter The Slim Devices Transporter followed in the footsteps of the insanely popular Squeezebox that came to appear as pack leader when the first media streamers began popping up. Despite its resemblance with a mid-eighties teenage lamps-are-cool amplifier, it sports some pretty amazing specs, including balanced XLR output and an Asahi-Kasei AK4396 DAC.

On a note aside, Slim Devices must be commended for an outstanding spec-sheet, in terms of writing. Instead of listing all sorts of numbers that mean nothing compared to sitting in front of it and listening, they disclose such little nuggets as physical characteristics of in- and outputs, that remote control commands are discrete and that firmware can be flash updated and many others. Seemingly trivial stuff but fairly interesting if you want to pair the device with what you already own.

Hifidelio Pro-S

hifidelio The Hifidelio streamer  supports ripping and recording CDs. And not only that. It can rip to Flac format. On the connection side it has the usual analogue and digital audio connections but also boasts a 4 port switch and 2 USB ports. For displaying CD information it connects to FreeDB for artist and track titles.

Hifidelio entertains two lovely ladies called Leonore and Veronica. Leonore is a web based interface to the device that lets you control it remotely as well as edit playlists. Veronica is a VNC based remote control that can run on anything supporting VNC, such as a Windows Mobile based telephone. Just imagine: manage your playlists from your mobile phone! Neat!

One thing that stands out with Hifidelio is an incredibly active user community, discussing everything from music to firmware updates.

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