Astell & Kern AK500N

Astell & Kern AK500N

Moniked… can you say moniked? Well, I did… moniked The Ultimate MQS Network Audio Player this beast pulls on attitude not only in its looks. Outgrowing its older portable siblings, this one rips to lossless Wav or Flac. It replays high resolution files up to a 24-bit/384KHz through its Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC. The power supply consists of a lithium battery which is being charged when the player is not in action, or if it really needs to. This makes the job of filtering out noise from the grid much easier effectively conditioning power to avoid hum and spike induced artifacts.

Astell & Kern AK500N

The AK500N is operated either through the built-in flipable touch panel, from the comfort of your PC, or from your phone or tablet. It boasts balanced outputs, both fixed and variable, and 4 digital in- and outputs + USB. In terms of file formats there is nothing you can’t throw at it.

Good Tidal to You, And All of Your Kin

Tidal just announced another 5 countries on their list of supported locations. Tidal is now available in these countries: USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, South Africa, Denmark, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Denon PMA-50

denpma50ps_2Denon is releasing their version of a bookshelf class-D amp with an abundance of digital inputs. The PMA-50 supports digital audio of up to 24bit/192KHz via USB, coaxial or two optical inputs. Additionally it sports a single analog audio input. On the output side of things, numbers reach 50W at 4Ω. The frontpanel comes in two flavors, allowing you to position the amplifier flat or upright.

Blue Sonos

Blue Note PLAY:1Commemorating 75 years since the inception of Blue Note Records, Sonos have released 4,100 blue airbrushed PLAY:1 at a +25% price tag. With it comes three TuneIn channels with Blue Note music. These channels are available on any Sonos system, in fact, for the next year. The stock of blue PLAY:1 will probably not last that long.

We Need A QA OR An FAQ On MQA ASAP

Illustration excerpt from Stereophile article on MQAWhen Meridian went public with their MQA last year, nobody appeared to grasp the concept. Most just went “Wow” and said it lifted the soundstage and brought more brilliance to the sound vectors; better than lossless, even. Just below my otherwise allsensing radar, John Atkinson of Stereophile conjured up a brilliant little article that describes MQA in as much detail as anyone could possibly need, save those who need to implement the darn thing. So without further ado, here is a link to the hero of the day, who actually manages to explain MQA losslessly more or less verbatim off of Bob Stuarts notes, without resorting to those dreaded black arts…

Tidal Deal All ‘Rapped Up

Swedish streaming company Aspiro, mostly known for their WiMP service are closing the deal with rapper Jay-Z. Following this deal, Jay-Z will own not only WiMP but more importantly also Tidal, the lossless streaming service just now trying to get a good grip on the hi-fi digital market. Jay-Z isn’t likely to change that but he will undoubtedly make lossless streaming a more commonly known technology and thus make this deal a good thing for the rest of us.

Sonos Going A Little Bit Faster

Sonos are releasing an update to their controller software for Android today in beta. The update does away with a few navigational issues that crept in with the last update [return of the track progression bar] and adds some navigation improvements such as swipe between screens and quick access to groups. An update for iOS will come later.

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.

Audio Streaming Tidal Wave

Streaming services such as Spotify and WiMP are becoming as ubiquitous as Dr. Martens at a 1980’s punk concert. Unfortunately the audio quality is often not far from that either; the boots. When Swedish Aspiro, who are the powers behind WiMP, announced Tidal, a new streaming service for audiophiles, it was not without a certain anticipation and definitely not without a certain skepticism from audio boffins. In September and October they touched down in USA, UK and Canada, and with limited access in a number of other countries. Likely a judicial matter. Judging from their web page, they are now getting ready to take on mainland Europe as well. “Can I get it now, or must I hesitate?” to quote one song, “First we take Manhattan…” to quote another.

Tidal is available on major platforms, Android, iOS, Windows and Mac, and integrates with Squeezebox, Sonos, Linn and Simple Audio. Highest streaming quality is Flac at 1411kpbs, which amounts to 16bit/44.1KHz. Not hi-res but definitely a major leap in online audio.

Windows 10 Going Flac

Microsoft Windows 10 will ship with a new version of Windows Media Player that supports Flac natively. Not only is this a giant nod from a giant to a fine file format, it will also put Flac on the tongue of more people and thus help propagate high definition music. Restrictions on bandwidth and storage have long been poor excuses for playing MP3 files. Now another excuse seems to dematerialise.

The news comes from Microsoft’s own Gabriel Aul in a slightly mysterious tweet.

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