Network Player and Streamer Reviews

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Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 09, 2014
DSD Over WiFi
The Auralic ARIES prototype debuted at CES 2014 and caused quit a stir with its ability to stream DSD over WiFi. The company prefers to call the Aries a "Wireless Streaming Bridge" but if we look at its functionality from a bird's eye view it is a network player or streamer. Essentially the Aries accepts your NAS-based music or streaming services via WiFi or Ethernet, its Lightning App acts as the control point, and it sends your musical selections on to your DAC of choice via USB, Toslink, Coax S/PDIF, or AES/EBU. Pretty straight forward stuff.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 31, 2016
Fit For Audiophiles?
I've seen this question posed and discussed about any number of things including the Auralic Aries Mini and I always think; this is what's wrong with some of the thinking in our hobby.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 23, 2015
My first review of the Auralic Aries network player was written back in October 2014 (see review). Since that time, Auralic has been busy improving the Aries mainly in terms of functionality and improved stability through a series of firmware updates. My initial review was based on firmware v1.7. The associated Lightning DS app has also seen steady improvement over this same period. With the recent release of firmware v2.4, I think it's a good time for a re-visit.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Nov 03, 2016
In This Corner...
Weighing in at a fit 16 lbs. with 10 digital inputs and balanced outputs stands the Roon Ready and firmware upgrade-able Ayre QX-5 Tweeeenty! And in this corner, piles of stuff.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jun 18, 2015
Rendered
Server, renderer, control point. Those are the ingredients of a UPnP/DLNA playback system. The server stores your music as well as the server software, the renderer is responsible for requesting your music from the server and passing it along to your attached DAC, while the control point is your interface to make this happen. Today, we're looking at and listening to the Bel Canto REFStream Asynchronous Ethernet Renderer to see how well it performs this deceptively simple task.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 03, 2014
A Network Node
The Bluesound Node is a network player—Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth in, out comes your choice of digital (Toslink) or analog (RCAs) music. The Node supports MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF in resolutions up to 24/192, gapless playback, cloud services including WiMP, Rdio, Highresaudio, Slacker Radio, Qobuz, Deezer and Juke (all of these services require an account and some have geographic restrictions), and Internet Radio via TuneIn Radio. You can also play music from an Internet URL. All of this functionality is wrapped up in a relatively small round-cornered display-less cube in your choice of high gloss white or black highlighted with a brushed steel strip running down its center. Control of the Node is performed strictly through the Bluesound app for iOS and Android devices.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 07, 2016
The New Node 2
The new Bluesound Node 2 looks a helluva lot better than the original Node, at least to my eyes. It's new beauty is not only skin deep as its processor has been upgraded to a 1 GHz ARM CORTEX A9 Multi-core processor, the DAC is now the BurrBrown PCM5122, and the company has also added more connectivity options, integrated Bluetooth, a headphone amp, and improved WiFi performance. Bluesound has also been been working on improving their BluOS app for iOS and Android devices so we're looking at and listening all new Blue Sound.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Feb 04, 2014
A Powerful Musical Duo
The Bluesound Powernode delivers network-, smartphone-, tablet-, and Internet-based music via wi-fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth while also packing an 50 Watt Direct-Digital Amplifier and a 24/192-capable DAC designed by NAD Electronics in one small round-cornered cubed package. The Duo is a sub/satellite speaker system designed by Paul Barton of PSB that has been optimized for use with the Powernode and together they can deliver music anywhere your wired, wi-fi, or Bluetooth range allows. Each come wrapped in gloss white or black with steely metal highlights.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 10, 2014
A Portable Network Player
Networked music on the go? From room to room and deck to driveway? The Bluesound Pulse is a portable player albeit one that is not battery powered that lets you connect to your network attached storage and the Internet for streaming either via Ethernet or Wi-Fi and play back up to 24/192 files. Throw in Bluetooth connectivity through an optional dongle and you have the world of music coming and going through one device.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Apr 28, 2016
Music-In-The-Box
You can serve to it, stream to it, and play to it via WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Toslink, or 3.5mm analog input. Armed with an ARM CORTEX A9 processor, 2x 50mm (2") speakers and an 89mm (3.5") woofer tri-amped with 60W of digital power, the Bluesound Pulse Mini pumps out a claimed 45Hz - 20kHz of not so mini music. Control playback from your iOS, Android, or Kindle device running the free BluOS control app or via the top-mounted touch controls and you have a world of music-in-the-box.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jan 21, 2014
A Musical Vault
The Bluesound Vault is in a category all by itself, at least for the time being. The Vault combines 1TB of Network Attached Storage (NAS) with a DAC and digital volume control so you can connect it directly to your hi-fi with a pair of regular old RCA interconnects. Using the very slick Bluesound app on your smart gadget or tablet of choice you can be playing scads of music in no time flat. No computer or external storage need apply. But that's not all.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Sep 18, 2014
Pro-Ject
Pro-Ject may be best known for their turntables, but they offer a dizzying array of products through their Box Designs line as well. From CD players to speakers and most everything in between, in multiple lines ranging from the E Line, C Line, S Line, DS Line, and RS Line (in ascending price order). Today's Stream Box is from the RS line, the top of the Pro-Ject digital heap.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Sep 11, 2014
A Sound House
One could buy a complete system, end-to-end, from the house of Bryston Limited. From a source like the BDP-2 to any number of loudspeakers and everything in between. We've taken just the digital sliver, the BDP-2 and BDA-2, to put under our sonic scope. I've been hearing good things about the BDP since it was a 1, so I must admit to being especially excited to get my hands the BDP-2, what Bryston calls a "digital player", and we refer to as a network player. Bryston was kind enough to also send along their matching DAC for a twofer review.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 20, 2014
All-In-One
The Cambridge Audio Minx Xi packs a 40 watt per channel (into 8 ohms) Class AB integrated amplifier, a network player, DAC, and headphone amp into one relatively small and sleek metal-wrapped high gloss white or black package. Throw in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and the Cambridge Stream Magic app for iOS or Android devices, and you've got yourself one very good reason to never leave your couch. Except to dance.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jan 31, 2013
Its Magic
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.

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