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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After 25 years in hi-fi, Cyrus has launched three new streaming-compatible products. Jason Kennedy examines the new technology
Streaming is the bandwagon to be on in 2011. Any electronics manufacturer worth its salt has realised as much and many are already fighting for a slice of what is considered to be the future of audio.
Cyrus has jumped in with three new streaming-compatible products that compete head-on with the leaders in the field, each contained within the iconic half-width Cyrus case and bursting with features.
Exclusive! Can Naim’s new high-performance streamer improve on the standard of its own CD players? Malcolm Stewart gives the answer. . .
The number of digital streaming devices available to the hi-fi enthusiast continues to grow on an almost daily basis.
Island in the stream
A music file player that doesn’t stream, what’s going on? Jason Kennedy examines the first in a new breed of transports
The engineers at Brystson have made the radical decision to build a digital music player that doesn’t stream music from a computer. Their angle is that streaming is bad, but digital music files are not. Is this then a brief diversion from the tidal onslaught of streamed music over solid software, or it could signal a new angle that brings us music files without the complications of streaming.
Bryston’s approach is to let you access music files stored on USB drives, be they thumb drives or hard drives which you stock up with music on the computer and then plug into the player.
Rip, touch and play
Malcolm Steward test runs the Qsonix Q105, a 21st Century music library system for people who have no interest in computers
here is a vital question facing any manufacturer of a hard-disk music player. It has nothing to do with what size disks to use or what sort of case to put it in. It is rather more rudimentary, i. e what sort of person is going to buy it?
If the answer is the hard-core audiophile, then the manufacturing task is immediately simplified.