Network Media Players

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 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
If anyone can help drive the take up of hi-res audio among non-audiophilesit’s this Japanese giantof consumer electronics with its premium-brand reputation. The NWZ-ZX1 operates very much like an Android phone with DLNA networking, web browsing, email, YouTube, etc, but without the telephony or texting features. Audiophiles may baulk at this multi-tasking, but such features are largely software based and unlikely to compromise the player’s performance. And by offering these features rather than say an expandable memory slot, digital optical audio output, DSD compatibility or the ability to use the NWZ-ZX1 as an external DAC, Sony is clearly targeting a different type of user.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
You might be forgiven for gaining the impression that there is really only one option when it comes to portable digital players capable of 24/192 resolution – Astell&Kern. But it was always only a matter of time before other players appeared. Those in search of an alternative to the somewhat pricey players from iRiver pricked up their ears whenFiiO trailed the availability of a more affordable unit using the same Wolfson WM8740 DAC. A similar frisson was felt when it released an excellent portable headphone amp – the E17 – a year or two ago.
 |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
You may think you’ve already seen the D 7050 gracing our review pages in recent months, as it looks strikingly similar to NAD’sD 3020 amp and D 1050 DAC, bothof which we tested back in issue 379. The D 7050 here, however, is an altogether more thorough package, and employs NAD’s Direct Digital circuitry (see Q&A), handed down from the company’s high-end Masters Series. This circuit ensures all preamp functions are performed in the digital domain, which NAD says helps keep unwanted noise low. Being a digital amp means that the D 7050 is bereft of analogue inputs, but digital inputs are well served across four S/PDIF sockets shared over coaxial and optical, alongside USB and Ethernet ports.
 |  Jan 15, 2015  |  1 comments
If you were one of the few people who bought a style system during the last decade you probably risked derision from your cleaner, never mind your tech-savvy mates unable to fathom why you’d accept all of the compromises of such a purchase. Now style systems appear to be enjoying a revival. This is partly fuelled by an austerity-induced nostalgia for simpler times. Then there is the need for better quality sound when watching TV on a skinny flatscreen, plus the evolution of contemporary audio delivery mechanisms such as internet radio, hi-res audio, home networking and wireless streaming from smartphones and tablets.
 |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
When the first Walkman cassette player went on sale in 1979 I lusted after it almost as much as I did Debbie Harry. Then everything went digital and Sony forgot that the reason the Walkman sold so well was because it was the best player of a universal format. The first network Walkmans weren’t compatible with MP3 files, but Sony changed tack and embraced MP3, and the Walkman re-emerged – as did Blondie – so that both enjoyed moderate success albeit, both a shadow of their former selves. Fast forward to today and the tide may look high for MP3, which is good news for audiophiles.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Jan 14, 2015  |  0 comments
By combining hi-fi sound quality with real world convenience, all-in-one digital music players signify a step-change for the hi-fi industry. Their allure is like that ofCD in the eighties, appealing to both audiophiles and music lovers alike who simply want a fuss-free way to hear music, which in the modern age could be stored on a smartphone, laptop or sophisticated NAS drive. Cambridge Audio clearly gets this and its Minx Xi combines features cherry picked from its affordable separates range, packed into an even more affordable do-it-all single box. So what you get is a 40W (claimed) Class AB amplifier derived from the company’s 351A integrated amp, dual Wolfson WM8728 DACs lifted from the 351C CD player, the streaming functionality of CA’s NP30 network player and Bluetooth connectivity courtesy of the company’s BT100 apt-X receiver.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 29, 2011  |  0 comments
XS all areas for just £2k Naim introduces its ‘entry-level’ network audio player, but there is nothing ‘entry-level’, however, about its performance, says Malcolm Steward The ND5 XS is Naim’s second network audio player and its first to offer native streaming of 24-bit/192 kHz sources. It follows the lauded and more expensive (£2,995) NDX (HFC 345) that arrived in February, this year. It differs from its forerunner, though, in being built into the attractive, slim-line XS series case rather than the taller Classic series enclosure, but is similar in being performance upgradeable. Upgrade options currently available include the XPS or PS 555 power supplies and the Naim DAC.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 29, 2011  |  0 comments
Denon gets on stream Denon has entered the network audio player market with an inexpensive, iPod-friendly player. Malcolm Steward streams his tunes The Denon DNP-720AE is quite a late arrival at the network player party, but it compensates for its tardiness by bringing with it a genuinely useful gift: Apple Airplay, to cater for those who keep their music library in iTunes and that is an extraordinarily large group of people. Despite the number of services and features it offers, the appearance of the player is delightfully simple. The fascia contains only an on/off button, a push button for input selection, a rotary cursor control, which will be familiar to iPod users, and a centrally mounted, three-line, Organic Electroluminescence Display.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 29, 2011  |  0 comments
Olive branch Olive’s new flagship hard-disk player brings huge storage and simple ease of use to the masses. Malcolm Steward listens in The 06HD is the current flagship model in the Olive range of hard-disk music servers. The enclosure is rather idiosyncratic: it is trapezoidal with the CD-drive loader (along with the headphone socket and volume control) mounted on the front, while the sloping top holds all the control buttons and an impressive 10-inch colour touchscreen. This precludes stacking the device or placing it on anything but the top shelf of an equipment rack.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 13, 2011  |  0 comments
Cambridge Audio NP30 Small and attractively priced, but have corners been cut on performance? A simple, unassuming little box, in keeping with the rest of the Sonata range, the NP30 keeps things simple on the input and output front, without actually scrimping. There is wired Ethernet (the one interface common to every device in this group) and a wireless connection via the supplied antenna, plus front and rear-mounted USB sockets for local media players. Output is analogue on phono sockets, or digital electrical and optical. In addition to the obvious functions of playing from local media and the computer network, various internet streaming services are accessible via UuVol, Cambridge Audio’s platform for streaming content.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 12, 2011  |  0 comments
Cyrus Stream X The digital-only output may restrict the appeal, but Cyrus’s latest has some nice features to it Cyrus offers a range of three Stream devices, of which this is the simplest, offering as it does just a digital output. It’s Stream XP includes a DAC and hence analogue outputs, while the flagship Streamline goes the whole hog and includes a power amp and speaker outputs. For the purposes of this review we alternated between Cyrus’s own DAC X and a Cambridge Audio DacMagic, the latter keeping the total price more in line with the rest of the group. In terms of features, this streamer is rather out on a limb in present company.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 11, 2011  |  0 comments
Logitech Squeezebox Touch From the makers of mice and keyboards comes one of the niftiest bits of audio user interface we’ve ever seen The photo will already have told you that this is in many ways a horse of a very different colour. All the same, its basic input and output features are close enough to those of the rest of the group. Ethernet and wireless network access are joined by a USB socket at the rear and an SD card socket at the side, both of which allow the use of local music storage devices. Output is on the usual pair of phono sockets, or a mini-jack for headphones, or electrical and optical digital connections.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 10, 2011  |  0 comments
Marantz NA7004 Plenty of streaming functions, but we suspect the inclusion of Apple Airplay will pique as much curiosity Marantz’s take on streaming audio is that it needn’t replace more familiar ways of accessing audio and, indeed, the same box can look after new and old sources. Accordingly, the NA7004 functions also as a DAC, a digital radio and indeed an FM/AM radio too, thus covering the gamut of ‘streaming’ audio right back to the 1920s. As a DAC, it includes both types of S/PDIF input and a USB type B socket, for connection to a computer, which means you can use it alongside a computer that’s not on a network. The USB socket on the front is for media players, including the iPod (and other Apple devices), and the NA7004 is also equipped with Apple Airplay for wireless music replay from suitable Apple players.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 09, 2011  |  0 comments
Rotel RDG-1520 Streamer or a ‘digital gateway’? Fact is, this is an easy bit of kit to use if you’re not used to computerised audio Streamer, tuner, ‘digital gateway’ – whatever you call it, this is a very flexible way of getting at tunes. It may not have quite as many options on offer as the Marantz, but it still does plenty: streaming from a computer network (wired or wireless) and playing internet radio, FM, DAB, USB including iPod etc. It does support 96kHz playback off a network, though not off USB and only at 16-bit resolution. What’s more, although it plays the files it downsamples them to 48kHz, so they are no longer high-res in any sense.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 08, 2011  |  0 comments
Yamaha NP-S2000 Slick and sleek, with more obvious audiophile features than most, but is it worth the extra cash? By some margin the most ‘hair-shirt’ of the streamers in this group, the NP-S2000 nevertheless looks a lot more like a bit of high-end audiophilia than the rest. It’s vast and very heavy, and we were impressed to find, after removing 42 screws to get the lid off, that it really is quite full of electronics – two separate mains transformers, a large and well-populated audio circuit board, and so on. Part of the reason why the audio board needs so much electronics is that it has to drive a balanced output, as well as the usual unbalanced, something you really don’t often see on streamers. There are optical and electrical digital outputs as well.