Cocktail Audio X30

Device Type: Integrated Amplifier/Server/Network Player/DAC
Input: Ethernet, 1x Coax S/PDIF, 1x Toslink, analog RCA, analog 3.5mm, 3x USB for USSB storage, WiFI through optional USB dongle
Output: analog RCA line out, 1x Coax S/PDIF, AES/EBU, HDMI (video only), 2 pair speaker binding posts, 6.35mm headphone out
Dimensions: 435mm(W) x 325mm(D) x 98.5mm(H)
Availability: Online and through Authorized Dealers
Price: $1695.00
Website: www.cocktailaudio.com

Cocktail Audio
Cocktail Audio is, to the best of my knowledge, a division of Novatron a Korean company specializing in the manufacture of "Multimedia Devices". I first came across the Cocktail Audio X30 at CES 2014 and I was intrigued by its all in oneness. The X30 incorporates a 50W digital amp, DAC, server, UPnP network player, and CD ripper all in one package. Just add speakers.

The computer inside the X30 sports an embedded 700Mhz MIPS processor, 4Gbit/DDR2/800Mhz Main Memory, and 4Gbit of Firmware Memory. The disk drive is a high speed optical disk drive capable of ripping an hour-long CD's worth of music in less than 10 minutes according to Cocktail Audio. The DAC and 50W digital amp are both from Texas Instruments, the former being the fairly ubiquitous Burr Brown TI PCM1792a capable of handling up to 24/192 data. The X30 supports APE/CUE, HD FLAC, HD WAV, MP3, FLAC, WAV, WMA, M4A, AAC, ALAC, AIFF, AIF, Ogg Vorbis, PCM, PLS, M3U, etc. file formats as well as gapless playback and Playlists. Internet Radio is provided via the free Reciva i-Radio service and the X30 also supports the Simfy streaming service. Additional streaming services are planned for the future.

The X30 can accept a single 2.5” SATA (up to 1TB), 3.5” SATA (up to 4TB), or SSD (2.5” SATA, up to 500GB) and buyers can opt to roll their own. The review unit came preloaded with a 500GB Seagate drive as well as boatload of music. Installation is simple and accomplished through a rear-mounted removable storage tray. Literally plug in and play. Also around back are most of the inputs and outputs as well as input for an FM antennae and IEC inlet for the included removable power cord.

The front of the X30 sports a nice big 5" TFT LCD (800x480 pixel), volume control, function control knob, four function buttons, headphone input, a single USB input, a 3.5mm analog input, and the slot load CD drive. The font panel consists of an 8mm thick slab of aluminum while the rest of body is your basic metal. That front panel comes in your choice of silver or black.

There's also an included remote which allows for a dizzying array of functions. Cocktail Audio also recommends ‘Eyecon’ for Android and ‘Sitecom media controller' for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod) for remote control which allows playback of internally stored media. I preferred the Creation 5 Pro app or Linn's Kinsky player since they allowed me to play back from both internal storage and my NAS.

You can rip your CDs to a number of formats including MP3 (yuck), Ogg, WAV (default), FLAC, and ALAC. I chose WAV and ripped a CD, Don Cherry's Art Deco (55:44) which took all of 9 minutes. You can elect to install the FreeDB database for metadata on your internal drive through the included CD or let the X30 use the internet-based service which obviously requires a network connection. There's a simple backup program included for backing up your internal storage to an external USB drive. Nice.

Playing back files from my NAS was simply a matter of going to the "Browser" menu on the font display using the function control knob, then selecting UPnP, and then my NAS. My NAS-based music library appeared pretty much immediately and played without a problem. Nice. Playing back music from internal storage was simply a matter of going to the "Music DB" menu and browsing away. There are three views for the TFT display when playing music; Cover and (Track) List (default), Music Info which show just the album info, and List Only which displays just the tracks. You can also scroll through these views by hitting the "Info" button on the remote.

There's also a built-in equalizer with various presets including Normal, Classical, Club, Concert Hall, Dance, Live, Party, and many more and you can also create your own eq. I went with Normal. The X30 is really chock full of features including the ability to record from Internet radio, set the recoding sample rate, play a CD directly without ripping, a Dynamic Range Compression Mode (default is "On" I turned it "Off"), and much more. For anyone interested in the full story, check out the X30 Manual.

It's Five O'Clock Somewhere
The Cocktail Audio X30 falls on the slightly dark and relaxed side of the sonic coin, similar to the recently reviewed Pro-Ject Stream Box RS (see review). You could point to the fact that they both employ the TI Burr-Brown PCM1792a DAC and I wouldn't argue the point but let's keep in mind we're also listening to a 50W integrated digital amp with the X30 as well. The amp drove my DeVore The Nines with no problem.

To reach further into that relaxed descriptor, I'm really talking about a sense of resolution and dynamics both of which I've heard better reproduced with other combinations albeit more costly than the X30 since they include my Pass INT-30A ($7,150). But even pairing the Pass with the relatively inexpensive iFi micro iDSD DAC ($499) delivers more resolution and greater dynamic slam. In comparison, the X30 sounds, well, more relaxed. Tone colors are also shelved down a bit from other combo's including the Pass/iFi but there's a nice sense of differentiation nonetheless. Bass response is a tad loose but hefty enough to deliver. There's certainly no sense of glare in the upper frequencies and if anything the overall sonic picture seems to be weighted toward the midrange.

The recently reviewed Sony UDA-1 integrated amp/DAC (see review) offered a more exciting sound but of course you're not getting a lot of the functionality of the X30 with the Sony including the network player/server piece, which is a big piece for those looking for an all-in-one piece of kit. But the Sony lit things up, upping the ante in terms of both dynamics and resolution.

I heard no sonic difference with the X30 playing music from internal storage or NAS to speak of and both methods were a breeze to navigate with Creation 5 and in a pinch through the front controls of the X30. The screen is a nice size, nearly readable from my listening seat. The included remote came in handy mainly for adjusting volume. Internet radio sounded its usual self, a bit muted, compressed, and gray but just fine for casual listening and music discovery.

Using the NAD VISO HP50 headphones, I took the X30's 'phone jack for spin and was pleased with what I heard. The relaxed quality I've been talking about did not seem to travel to the headphone output and music sounded resolute, relatively rich and full.

Cocktail Hour
If you're looking for an integrated amp, network player, music server, and DAC all in one box the Cocktail Audio X30 delivers a goodly amount of what you'd expect from such a device. While I've heard better sonic performance from more costly separates and less well endowed players in terms of features, the X30 errs on the side of what I consider to be an easy to listen to sound.



Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the X30 review: Pro-Ject Stream Box RS, iFi micro iDSD, Sony UDA-1

COMMENTS
jimx1169's picture

I've been interested in the Sony HAP Z1ES but I don't like how Sony 'colonizes' the external drive and forces the user to use their proprietary software to move the music onto the internal drive. I love the fact that the owner of this unit can install their own drive. Seems like Sony could take some lessons here...

kfrog100@yahoo.com's picture

as a budding 'young' audiophile who is looking for an all-in-one device like this, should I really consider this unit. It seems like more of a general-consumer level product, which is fine and it has great functionality. But will it scratch my audiophile itch? I suspect it really won't.

40 Ohms's picture

I actually really like this all in one approach from a transport perspective. I could do without the Dac and amp honestly but as someone who is looking to ditch their laptop from the chain, this is a pretty attractive transport solution with ripping storage and playback all rolled into one.

I think the value in their lineup is in their X12 model which includes ripping, storage, streaming and playback but is less than half the price at $699... Dual drive storage for RAID support and It also has a converter and 60 watt speaker taps and it has a touch screen. It strikes me as a Squeezebox Touch with ripping and built in storage. The DAC and amp are nice to have in a pinch but still probably bypass those and use it exclusively as a ripper/ transport.

I know this is a long forgotten review but I'd be curious to know if you did any listening with the X30 from its digital outs as transport? Was it the source feeding your ifi iDSD or was the iDSD tethered to another source? Sorry for the review necromancy

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