Sonore by Simple Design microRendu

Device Type: Network Player
Input: Ethernet (10/100/1000)
Output: USB 2.0
Dimensions: 3 ½ x 2 ¼ x ⅞
Weight: not much
Availability: Direct
Price: $640 w/o power supply, iFi iPower power supply (+$50), Sonore Signature Series Linear Power Supply (+$1,399)
Website: www.sonore.us

Wow
I like simple. I appreciate uncomplicated. Yet I write about computer audio. I also listen to music every day for most of the day so I'm very much interested in the quality of that experience. I've been waiting years for these things to come together and they finally have.

The purpose-built-for-audio microRendu, which is about the size of a deck of playing cards, has an Ethernet input on one side along with a barrel type power inlet (6-9 VDC at 1 Amp min continuous), and on the other side resides a USB output and a micro SD card slot (the card houses the OS). Simple. Inside there's a micro computer running the company's Sonicorbiter operating system, built in conjunction with Small Green Computer, while the hardware, including the proprietary printed circuit board, is also the product of a collaboration between Sonore by Simple Design, Small Green Computer, and John Swenson (of Uptone Audio REGEN fame). There's am improved REGEN inside every microRendu since it also houses a USB hub that "generates a completely new USB data signal to feed your device." Great care has been taken on the tiny innards so that noise does not pollute the outgoing audio signal.

The microRendu comes preloaded with the following software 'outputs' (how you want to interface with your music); SqueezeLite, ShairPort, MPD/DLNA, Signalyst NAA (HQPlayer), and Roon Ready. Selecting one of these outputs through the microRendu's browser-based interface takes all of a minute. PCM sample rates up to 768kHz and DSD to DSD512 are supported depending on your DAC.

In order to use the microRendu you need to have a few other things; a music collection stored on either a NAS or a hard drive attached to or inside a server, an Ethernet network, and a USB DAC attached to your hi-fi. Depending on which output mode you choose to use, the NAS or server must also run the appropriate software. For this review, I used an Intel NUC running Roon Server and my Synology 412+ NAS which houses my music library. Connectivity wise, the NAS is plugged into a NetGear ProSafe 8-port switch with a length of AudioQuest Vodka Ethernet cable, the NUC is attached to the same switch also with AQ Ethernet cable, as is the mircoRendu. The switch is connected to my ASUS RT-AC68U router.

I did not spend any time, at all, with any of the other outputs with the exception of adding HQPlayer on the backend of Roon. More about that in a separate review. The reason for this is I find Roon, especially when coupled with Tidal's HiFi streaming service, to be better than anything else on the market by a few country miles (see review): Roon brings the computer audio experience out of the dark ages and into the 21st C. For example, once you download and install Roon Server on your server, again I'm using a $535 Intel NUC for this purpose, which takes all of a few minutes, and point Roon to your NAS, which takes all of a minute, you are done with the hard part.

Since I had the NUC Roon'd and ready, I just had to connect the microRendu to my network and my DAC and plug it in. Then I opened the microRendu's browser interface by entering its IP address in my browser and selected Roon Ready as the output. Done. Every device running Roon, which includes my iPad, iPhone, and iMac, automatically see the microRendu. All I had to do was select it in the Roon app as my output device. Done. Time to play music.

One more thing—let's say you want to play music to another device(s) on the same network. I do, since my iMac is in charge of playing music on my desktop system. Since I have Roon installed on the iMac, and the review sample Mytek Brooklyn DAC connected to it, the Brooklyn also shows up as a "Zone" in Roon. So does the Roon Ready review sample totaldac d1-integral-headphone music server/DAC. So I can play to any of these devices from the Roon app, and group them or not, from my iPad, iPhone, or iMac.

Simple Done Right
With the Sonore microRendu in my system, my music sounds as good, or better, than it ever has. Period. This systems has included multi-thousand dollar servers and streamers and the microRendu sounds at least as good, and in most cases better than any of them. For a specific example, I compared the microRendu to the recently reviewed Baetis Audio Revolution III Media Server and found that I preferred the microRendu. Sound quality-wise, I A/B'd between the two using the recently reviewed PS Audio DirectStream Junior1 over days and weeks and the little microRendu simply sounded better. It's worth noting that the AES cable that was included for the Baetis review costs $1,250.

When the tiny microRendu first arrived I compared it to my trusty old MacBook Pro, which has been serving my tunes for years. This comparison lasted all of a few minutes as it was no contest—out went the worse-sounding MacBook Pro which will never again be a part of my hi-fi. The microRendu makes music sound more like music and less like some overly-processed rendition thereof. Every recording opens up into a more natural-sounding space, the noise floor drops to reveal greater micro-detail, nuance, and increased dynamic range, while tone colors become more vivid and you, your mind & body become more relaxed and able to simply listen and enjoy. What more do you need to know?

I attached the microRendu to the Auralic Vega, PS Audio DirectStream Junior, and the Simaudio Moon 280D Streaming DSD DAC and it consistently performed beautifully. For a really nice budget system, I plugged the review sample DragonFlys directly into the microRendu and sent the analog signal to my Ayre AX-5 Twenty via the AQ Mini to RCA converter/AQ Red River interconnects. When coupled with the iFi power supply and the DragonFly Black, we're looking at less than $800 for the digital front end hardware. You can also use the DragonFlys on the go by connecting them to your smartphone but that's another story.

Let's talk power. I have the iFi power supply and Sonore's own Signature Series Linear Power Supply. For a very good sounding budget setup, the iFi supply works wonders. If you want the microRendu to sound exceptionally good, get the Sonore supply. It's really that simple. All of the positive sonic traits the microRendu imparts on a system, and let's please keep in mind we're talking about a system, are ramped up and improved upon in a very obvious way with the more expensive Sonore power supply. I kinda wish it wasn't so, but it is.

It's worth noting that there are any number of other external power supply options that fall somewhere in between the price of the iFi and Sonore Signature, many of which are listed on the Sonore website. I have not had any of these in-barn so I cannot comment on their performance but I'm very tempted to explore some other options in search of an in-between...

What More Do You Need To Know
If you own a USB DAC and want to play network-attached music through it, the Sonore microRendu is currently the best option I've come across—regardless of price. If that doesn't make your computer-audio-music-loving heart bulge with delight, I don't know what will.

If you want to enjoy this experience and not futz with crappy software, run Roon on it. If you want to add access to a few million CD-quality albums for $20/month, get Tidal HiFi. This should keep your mind on your music and off computer audio for years to come.


1. It's worth noting that the DirectStream Junior will soon be Roon Ready so you will no longer need the microRendu in that playback picture.

Also in-use during the microRendu review: Auralic Vega, Simaudio Moon 280D Streaming DSD DAC, PS Audio DirectStream Junior

Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
Stephen Dupont's picture

I'm very intrigued by the microRendu, and would love to see a power supply shootout. no doubt the sonore PS is great, but at more than double the price of the mR itself....

Michael Lavorgna's picture
But my personal - want to try list - includes the HDPlex ($395).
Doak's picture

Have done this comparison since I have both. Surprisingly, to me, the iFi sounds better. Others have reported same though, as always, YMMV.
I've also tried my DIY Li-on cap buffered battery PSU and a couple of low priced LPSU. What ended up using, because it sounds really good, is an old HP laboratory grade PSU. It's ugly, weighs 30 lbs., has a distinct mechanical hum but.... insert your own analogy regarding love being blind, using brown paper bags, and that kind of stuff. ;-)

rrwwss52's picture

My microRendu's iFi supply is plugged into a PS Audio P5 power plant. It really sounds superb, considering it's only a $50 power supply, but some clean power feeding it. May upgrade to something a little better once addition supplies are tested, but for me, the Sonore supply at $1300 might be "diminishing returns" in my setup. Great review on the microRendu.

Patatorz's picture

I had the chance to test the hdplex vs the ifi power a,d clearly it is more open and transparent with the hdplex that I also use with the other outputs.

DH's picture

Am using it together with Roon+HQP to upsample everything, including Tidal, to DSD. Sounds really good to me.

Uptone audio is going to relase later this summer an ultracapacitor PS that will mate perfectly with the mR. Will cost in the area of $399.
Will be interesting to see how this compares to the Sonore Signature Supply.

mikey8811's picture

Did you do an Aries comparison? If so, what did you find?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
But I'll say that the microRendu certainly grabbed my attention more.
mikey8811's picture

Is similar to what I envisaged as I am due for hardware upgrades. Synology NAS and Intel NUC i7 in order to run HQ Player for upsampling.

My problem though is my house is old and not wired for ethernet outlets. If I have my modem and main 802.11 AC router in my Hi Fi room, I can run an ethernet cable from the router to microRendu. Can the NAS and NUC be connected to said network via Wi Fi? Would this work? I can use a switch like you have but then would need long runs of ethernet cables if I don't want the NAS and NUC in the Hi Fi room so I guess that won't work.

Also, from a cost saving perspective, is it possible to run HQ Player with either the NAS or NUC rather than both?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I would recommend a hard-wired connection for the best sonic performance.

HQPlayer runs on Windows, OSX, or Linux/Ubuntu so it will not, at least at present, run on a Synology or QNAP NAS. So in your scenario, the NAS/NUC setup works since you'll be running HQPlayer on the NUC.

mikey8811's picture

rack space or electrical outlets in my Hi Fi room as I have AV equipment there as well. 2 6-outlet power conditioners/ strips full already. Duplex wall outlets too. The barrage of cables and wires are scary. With "traditional" equipment I could live with it. With computer audio you have the device, the separate power supply for the device, the umbilical between device and PS, the power cord to the PS. With the various USB tweaks you literally double up said cables. One of the attractions of the microRendu is it gets rid of said tweaks - unless of course they work too....

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...is to get power-line adapters (Ethernet over power lines). I have not tried this, but here's a recent review of a bunch:

Best power-line adapters of 2016.

mikey8811's picture

That was one of the routes I looked at initially. That and MoCa or coaxial network adapters.

There's always the issue of noise - noisy router, power line, Wi Fi - don't know which is the least of the evils.

What is confusing is Auralic advocates Wi Fi over an ethernet connection to the router which they claim is noisy.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...network audio components from noise is to use an Ethernet to Fiber converter from the router to a dedicated Ethernet switch and connect all audio gear to that switch. No more noise.
audiofool's picture

I find that true of wired Ethernet and a good 5mhz 802.11ac connection; its cleaner sounding than wired Ethernet connection. Not true if using b/g/n wireless connectivity.

mikey8811's picture

I rejigged my setup and moved the router to my hi fi room. I ran an ethernet cable - albeit only a generic Cat 5 patch cable - to the Aries. The Aries did sound better with the 802.11 ac connection. Like you said, cleaner, smoother and more open with better inner detail.

I was surprised. Of course if I had a better ethernet cable who knows? I am wondering if I should stick to wi fi or buy a better ethernet cable to try out and then the microRendu. Also, with the beta 4.04 firmware update, it sounds quite a bit better than before. Some on CA prefer it to the microRendu sans HQ Player because it has big bass. I found it improved in all areas with a more pleasing quality in the mids too.

rrwwss52's picture

I am using PLEK 500s from my ASUS router via powerline to a switch which connects to my entertainment system. Plenty of bandwidth. No dropouts or other issues. I love my microRendu....just a simple, easy to use purpose driven device. I use both Roon Ready and NAA HQPlayer modes.

Mike Rubin's picture

I have my NAS in my basement with the rest of my computing and network gear because it benefits from being connected directly to my router. Unfortunately, I live in a multistory, lath-and-plaster house, so running an ethernet cable simply is impractical. (I can find an electrician who can run wires and cables, but none who can repair plaster.)

I have a SotM server that I bought from Sonore awhile ago. It does not run wirelessly, either, but i found two solutions that worked well enough to stream audio and for copying of files to the SotM hard drive. One was to use a wireless bridge and then cable from there. This is good enough for all but hi-res audio over my network. The other, which was recommended by Small Green Computer, was to use Ethernet Over Powerline. This is good for anything I can throw at it. I now have my server connected by Ethernet over Powerline into a switch and then from the switch to the server.

I have a MicroRendu on order. Sonore says it's an upgrade in sound quality over the SotM. Before I ordered, however, I asked if I should fear adverse effects to sound quality if using Ethernet over Powerline, because, with local storage, my previous use of the connection has most heavily been simply for file copying. I was told that I should not be concerned about that.

I will have the opportunity to test that out when the unit arrives later this month. I also ordered the iFi Power Supply as I can use it in another system if I don't need it with the MicroRendu, but I intend to A/B it against the HDPlex PS that presently powers the server and my Regen.

In any event, I think you probably can do just fine even with high res audio if you use a Powerline connection and can do well with a wireless bridged connection if you aren't planning on streaming high bitrates.

mikey8811's picture

For the feedback. Which powerline solution did you end up with? I was thinking of the Netgear.

Also, the other option that I have is to move my router and modem to listening room and then run an ethernet cable from the router to the microRendu. All my other devices in other rooms will have to connect to that router.

Not sure if this is better or worse than powerline.

Mike Rubin's picture

It's the Power line 1200 model, with a one-outlet pass-through. One is connected to my router and the other is upstairs, connected to a four-port switch. Both the SotM and an Oppo Blu-ray player also are connected to the switch. I never have had a minute's trouble with either of the units, but there are some negative reviews at some of the sellers' websites, so maybe they don't always work as well as they have for me.

R1200CL's picture

Do you need a computer in order to run Squeezelite ?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...Logitech Media Server running on a computer or NAS in order to use the Squeezelite output on the microRendu.
R1200CL's picture

Yes.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squeezelite

I was thinking mysqueezebox.com was the same as Squeezelite.

bobflood's picture

mRendu has LMS 7.9 and according to Andrew at SGC it can serve to itself via a NAS(no external computer needed). Adding the ickStream plugin to LMS and you can stream Tidal even without the NAS (but no local library then).

SGC has the sonicTransporter which is a small appliance computer to run the sonicOrbiter OS which includes LMS and Roon. It is very similar to the NUC Michael is using except that it runs sonicOrbiter on Linux instead of using Windows.

DanRubin's picture

Excellent review, Michael. In your footnote, you say, "...the DirectStream Junior will soon be Roon Ready so you will longer need the microRendu in that playback picture." While true that the Junior will serve the role of Roon endpoint, I wonder if having the microRendu in the chain won't still provide sound quality benefits. It will be interesting for you to compare it both ways once the Junior gets its Roon update.

Did you, or could you, try an alternate playback software (not Roon) and compare NUC > microRendu > Junior USB input vs. NUC > Junior Bridge input? (If that even makes sense -- I'm not too clear on how the PS Audio Bridge works.)

Dan Rubin

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I no longer have the DirectStream Junior. It went back to PS Audio a few days after the review was posted.
ctsooner@alumni.ou.edu's picture

sorry, just so confusing. I asked yesterday if the Melco used as a NAS running into the Ayre QX5 would sound better than using the QNAP Nas scenario you wrote about yesterday. Say I want Roon and HQplayer with the Ayre, how would you set that up? I assume I need the NUC regardless of the QNAP or the Melco? Where does this new device fit in and why? Typically less is more in audio and it just seems like we are adding so many more units which means connections and noise from power supply's.

I'm sure that I'm not fully understanding it all. If there is a better thread to post this on, just let me know. Thanks so much for dealing with my ignorance here. I'm sure I'll know enough to be dangerous very soon.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
The Melco will not work as it does not currently support Roon. Also out of this picture is running Roon on a NAS since you cannot run HQPlayer on a NAS. So...

You want something like the NUC to run Roon and HQPlayer (this is what I've got going here). You also want to get an external HDD to connect to the NUC or a NAS to store your music.

Since the Ayre is a Roon Ready device, you do not need a microRendu. The Ayre will connect to your network (router or Ethernet switch) via Ethernet as will the NUC (and NAS if you decide to go that route).

Make sense?

Chris Garrison's picture

I think I remember you reviewed one of those little boxes...

Michael Lavorgna's picture
But there's no real comparison to be made in terms of ultimate sound quality. The microRendu wins.
ctsooner@alumni.ou.edu's picture

I hate asking questions on this thread about NAS vs hard drive. I don't have to have my music on the network as I stream Tidal from the Linn system in the bedroom. Is a large SSD hard drive all I need? If so, I don't even need an ethernet connection etc... I assume a powered hard drive would be better than running off the 5v portable drive??

This microrendu is a very interesting product. I'm now starting to understand how and why it's used. Glad I don't need it, but I have a bunch of friends who would love one. Thanks.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
TJ's picture

Thanks Michael, great review! Is it true that you can't use a microRendu with a Mytek 192 because of the nonstandard USB interface on the 192?

DH's picture

One caveat: only DSD 64, no 128. Its b/c of the Linux driver of the mR for the Mytek

TJ's picture

thanks DH, nice!

bobflood's picture

mRendu with the CIAudio 9V power supply and it works and sounds just fabulous as Michael has said. I never got this level of SQ from any of the Windows computers I have used including with all the available tweaks.

bobflood's picture

for the new power supply soon to be released by Uptone. It was also designed by John Swenson and is a perfect fit for the mRendu.

Reed's picture

I Really like this rendering specialist device direction. I hope there are others that follow suit. This will make things much more convenient. I also like the idea of offloading the USB duty from my laptop.

BJameson's picture

I want to see a shootout between microRendu and SOtM sMS-200. Anyone reviewed both units yet? I'm intrigue by SOtM because they pride themselves in having their products with clean power.

wilqox's picture

Did you experience drop-outs with the microrendu feeding the Vega DAC using exact clock?

Gordon Cole's picture

My current setup involves a Synology NAS feeding via ethernet switch a Mac Mini where I run Audirvana as my streamer, library manager, and Tidal gateway. The Mac Mini then through a combo of Jitterbug/USB Cable/Regen feeds my DAC, and so on. I use Audirvana's remote app on my iPad to control the whole deal. Where in a configuration such as this would the microRendu go? Would it be replacing my Mac Mini in this equation? And if so, it sounds like I would need a new front-end like Roon to control music selection. Or maybe use Synology's DS Audio app, which while functional, isn't ideal. I'm hesitant to lose Audirvana as it's my portal to Tidal, plus I have loads of playlists that I'd hate to lose. Any suggestions?

Reed's picture

it's an extra component in the path, much the way a Regen is. Assume the current path is MacBook Pro -> Roon -> USB -> Regen -> USB -> DAC.

The new path would be MacBook Pro -> Roon -> Ethernet or wireless -> network hub -> Ethernet -> Senore -> USB -> DAC.

There are 2 main differences. The communication from your computer to the Regen is a USB connection. The communication the the Senore would be through the network via Ethernet. The bigger difference is that the Senore is a true rendering device, not a USB pass though device like the Regen. With the Regen, the output device is you select is still your DAC. With the Senore, the out device is the Senore.

When Michael said he will never use his MacBook Pro again, what his really saying is that he will never use the USB connection from his MacBook Pro again. In other words, the Senore does a far superior job communicating music via USB, compared to his MacBook Pro.

Gordon Cole's picture

Thanks for the reply. Though currently, the ethernet port on my Mac Mini is occupied by my LAN feed and serves as my connection to my NAS along with all of my music files, so I don't see how I'd feed the Sonore with only one ethernet port absent of storing my music locally via USB or Thunderbolt.

Also, as I mentioned in my post, I'd ideally like to continue using Audirvana so I'm still unclear as to where the Sonore fits in my signal chain.

Reed's picture

You use your iPad to control your music with Audirvana. The Roon iPad software doesn't work on pre iPad Air iPads. I have a 4th generation iPad, the one right before the iPad Air, and Roon software doesn't work on it. It works with all other player's iPad software, but not Roon. Roon works on my iPhone 6, which is less than ideal due to the screen size.

gtgleeson's picture

Wish I could get a 1U rack mount unit with microRendu, iFi power supply, and Meridian Explorer². I'd hook a few of these up to a NAS running RoonServer.

I can do it myself, but I'd like neatness...

fritzg's picture

How does it compare in a budget system to something like the SonicOrbiter SE or DIY Roon devices like the BeagleBone black or Raspberry Pi?

fritzg's picture

Like the PS Audio Sprout? Is the Rendu overkill there?

TJ's picture

more new DACs with built-in Ethernet interfaces?

Reed's picture

...is your MacBook Pro with Roon, using HQPlayer, communicating with this device using the HQPlayer NAA option. That would be exactly be the first setup I would try in my system.

EWalberg's picture

Michael,

Can you compare the sound quality of the microRendu to the Melco N1A as a source for a USB DAC? Thanks.

Jorge Soares's picture

I am using a Macbook + HQPlayer + Roon + RUR ---> dac (Chord 2Qute). Would it make sense to add the microRendu in my system? Thanks

James Romeyn's picture

Thanks for a great review. Would you please explain this footnote: "1. It's worth noting that the DirectStream Junior will soon be Roon Ready so you will longer need the microRendu in that playback picture."

Is it correct to say uR is a re-clocking accessory?
Read more at http://www.audiostream.com/content/sonore-simple-design-microrendu#FXT8z...

dff's picture

I have been using the old Logitech Squeezebox with an external DAC. This sounds like the replacement for the Squeezebox that I have been waiting for.

bobflood's picture

a separate computer (a sonicTransporter) and it works extremely well. For internet derived content (including Tidal using the ickStream plugin), you can use the LMS 7.9 that is installed in sonicOrbiter (the OS of the microRendu). All you have to do is configure and activate it and also the Squeezelite output mode and you are good to go with just the microRendu.

You can control it with any of the many LMS control apps available for all the major operating systems. I use Soundicity on a Windows laptop and a Windows phone and I also have a Logitech wireless controller left from my Duet days that works as well.

cmonache's picture

Thanks for putting me onto this great product. I do not usually comment on this site much but this product really deserves some good feedback. First, ordered the product on the 4th of July and it is already in my system, connecting and playing back sweet tunes by lunchtime Saturday all the way in Tokyo Japan.

Setup was a snap, sound is great, and it is just a darn fun little product. Recommended.

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