In my quest to find a suitable replacement for the discontinued Logitech Squeezebox Touch, I came across the Rasberry Pi. Anyone on a similar quest has more than likely been tempted by the Pi and if you're anything like me, you found its $35 price tag coupled with the promise of streaming capabilities from network attached storage and USB audio output too good to pass up. So I ordered myself some Raspberry Pi, loaded up a few instances of music player software and got to playing. I will say up front that so far I have mine working with CD-quality files through an older USB 1.0 DAC.
People looking to play hard drive and Internet-based music without a computer have one choice—a network player. You could argue that a network player is a computer but that's missing the relevant point which is some people don't want to tie up their computer for use as a music server. They'd rather use a computer as a computer. So a dedicated device is their solution. The Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 gives you most everything you'd expect from a network player including the ability to play up to 24/96 music from Network Attached Storage (NAS), USB-based storage, the Internet, and it throws in a 24/192-capable USB DAC to boot.
How Smart Can a Radio Be?
Logitech has recently rejigged its entire lineup of music-playing products giving them all a new home under the "UE" umbrella. Here's what Logitech says about their new UE line:
Artistry Meets Engineering
Now, as Logitech UE, our commitment to precision technology and sound quality is the inspiration behind everything we do. State-of-the-art research facilities and top engineers from around the world ensure that every last detail in each of our products—from headphones, to smart radios, to wireless speakers—is perfect. Artists on stage or people in their living rooms are all united by the music they live for. And we are dedicated to creating products that bring it to them pure and undiluted.
A Network Stereo Receiver
From a certain perspective, the more buttons, knobs, inputs, and outputs a given piece of hi-fi gear has the less likely its going to be taken seriously by the audiophile community. Never mind that the audiophile community is rarely taken seriously outside itself and sometimes even suffers dissension from within, the simpler-is-better maxim makes most sense when there's one specific job to do. When we add other factors like price, convenience, and increased functionality things can get all complicated. So if you are already taken aback by the word "Receiver" you may want to hold on to your Shakti Stones because the Integra DTM-40.4 also has...tone controls.
If you read my review of the Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC Universal Music Controller you'll know that I had issues playing back high definition files through the front USB port. When John R. Quick of Tempo Sales & Marketing, the Musical Fidelity US Distributor, heard about this, he tried to reproduce my problems with another M1 CLiC without luck. So he assumed the issues I was having may have been due to the age of my unit (no jokes) so he sent along a newer M1 CLiC for this follow up.
All Things To Some People
The Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC Universal Music Controller has its hands in a lot of pies. Beyond getting what you'd expect from a network player/streamer including wired and wi-fi inputs, a host of S/PDIF inputs, an iOS device input, and the ability to connect a USB thumb drive or Hard Disk Drive, the M1 CLiC throws in an old-fashioned USB DAC and a Preamplifier with three analog inputs with a choice of fixed or variable outputs. Yea, I said 'old-fashioned' in reference to the USB DAC since it's run in adaptive mode and it only supports up to 16-bit/48kHz data. But hey, not every network player throws in a USB DAC so you can think of this one as an extra or as not existing at all (if that makes you feel better).
T+A stands for "Theory And Application" and it also stands for a company that's over 30 years old (founded 1978 in Herford, Eastern Westphalia, Germany). T+A has a complete line of products that includes nearly every piece of the hi-fi puzzle—speakers, amplifiers (tube and SS), preamplifiers (tube and SS), integrated amplifiers, receivers, network players/streamers, all-in-one devices, CD/SACD/DVD players, turntables, and more. T+A has over 180 dealers in their native Germany alone and my only question is, why don't we know more about them in the USA?
There's A World Of Music Out There
The Pioneer Elite N-50 is chock full O features meant to submerge you into the growing stream of digital music. And it can let you drink from many sources. You could say the N-50s musical appetites are, as with most like-devices, voracious which is good news since people considering something like a Pioneer N-50 are voracious lovers of music as well. The N-50 also has a few extra musical tricks up its sleeve.
It May As Well Slice And Dice
The NAD C 446 Digital Media Tuner offers a host of options through which you can play your music; kit with a big caboodle. You can listen to Internet radio, LAST.FM (if you have a paid account), regular old AM/FM, DAB where available, you can stick your USB memory stick in and listen to files from it, you can Play To the UPnP Receiver, stream to the UPnP Client, play music stored on your UPnP/DLNA Network Attached Storage device or Twonky Server, create playlists on the fly from your Android or iOS devices thanks to its UPnP Digital Audio Renderer (DAR) technology, and play music from your docked iPod/iPhone if you have the NAD IPD 2 Dock ($159.95).
When it comes to ripping CDs and downloading music, I've been sitting on the sidelines feeling more than a bit of envy. Stereophile's reviews of various media servers have whetted my appetite, but not so much as to overcome my timidity about getting into a new realm of technology in which I would be a beginner all over again. Still, I've sneaked a few peeks.