Aurender N100H

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Joe
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Aurender N100H

Postby Joe » Fri Jan 20, 2017 6:39 pm

This little beauty arrived just after Christmas. I ordered it on Black Friday but Aurender are currently without a UK distributor so it came direct to the dealer from South Korea.

I’ve been very happy with my Stream X Signature. What it lacks in features, it makes up for in sound in my opinion. I purchased the full-fat Auralic Aries last year and whilst its app and specs make the Cyrus look a bit of a dinosaur, I just didn’t get on with its sound signature. I was initially very impressed by its transparency and technical finesse, in fact I even put the Cyrus up for sale, but after a few days of living with it, the sale was pulled and the Cyrus back on the rack. The music had lost a bit of its soul. I found the Auralic a bit too clinical, perhaps a bit toppy, in my system at least.

After moving the Aries on, I picked up a Mini for Tidal duties until Cyrus got their act together on the firmware front. Unfortunately for my wallet however, I had been reading a few reviews of Aurender's N100H in the meantime.

It’s a pricey bit of kit for what is essentially a digital bridge between network and DAC but my experience has taught me that digital transports are a strange beast. There’s little reason to think they should sound any different to each other and switching back and forth between different units, you’d be hard pushed to tell which is which, but that said, I’ve found noticeable variations in timbre and musicality during extended listening periods. Digital sources struggle to hold a candle to vinyl in terms of delivering emotion and for whatever reason, jitter, noise etc. some digital front-ends start to grate in day-to-day listening.

Reviews of the Aurender suggested it would be the upgrade I’d hoped the Aries would be. People talk of a richer sound that is more “analogue" (a fool’s errand if you ask me, but anyway...) It’s also got some great things going on under the lid to reassure you there’s nothing interfering with your 1’s and 0’s on their way to your DAC: A linear PSU, isolated USB output, 2TB hard drive and a 128GB SSD that caches your files whilst playing them. Clever stuff indeed. It’s quite strange seeing your NAS go to sleep before the album’s finished playing!

The unit is much nicer in the flesh than pictures suggest. It’s well built with a quality AMOLED screen and the half-width chassis is very appealing for obvious reasons. I found it very easy to set up but there is in-app support just in case. I was surprised to find it won’t allow the use of external music server software. You have to install Aurender’s Mac-only Media Manager software to set it up, otherwise you can only browse by file/folder. Transferring your music from your NAS to the hard drive is easy but it’s something to be aware of, as is the fact the N100 only has USB output and no Wifi support. Another neat feature of note is that the Aurender’s onboard media server can effectively turn the unit into a NAS drive, allowing you to stream music to other devices.

Aurender’s conductor App is very good indeed, if a little too brown. It’s rock solid and has all the features you could want. I like the “fade on pause” option. Tidal is integrated well. It’s lacking some of the features Auralic have such as featured releases and cross-platform favourites* but there are band bios and most importantly, Aurender’s buffer is massive. I have copper broadband and with the Aries, Tidal had a tendency to stutter if someone was streaming HD video for example. The Aurender has never skipped a beat. It’s worth noting the Aurender has no internet radio but I rarely used that anyway.

My first listen featured a few of the demo tracks to be found on the hard drive followed by some of my favourites from the NAS. It was immediately obvious that the Aurender has a character of its own. The sound was rich and full bodied, pleasingly rhythmic, if a little rough around the edges. A tad veiled or muddy and occasionally harsh at high volume. This didn’t particularly worry me as things were heading in the right direction and the web suggests the N100 has quite an extensive burn-in period.

I’ve been sceptical of such things in electronics but the Aurender now has me convinced of the phenomenon. Between listening sessions I left the unit playing random tracks from the hard drive overnight and waited until it had had 100 hours on the clock before giving it a full assessment and comparing to the Cyrus. There was a noticeable improvement after this period with the sound becoming more defined and spacious and I feel it has continued to improve even more in its musicality since then.

The music has a real presence to it with superb definition. It manages to separate subtly different sounding instruments in the mix really well. It’s also easy to listen to for long periods without fatigue. It won’t polish a turd but there’s no hint of the harshness or treble glare that digital sources often suffer from. Listening to the 2015 remaster of “Hunky Dory” in 192KHz 24 bit is as close as my digital setup has come to topping the RCA vinyl for pure listenability.

In a direct comparison with the Cyrus, the Steam X Sig still holds its own but whilst the differences are quite subtle, they are there. They are both similarly musical and the Cyrus is pleasingly smooth but the music has more energy to it on the Aurender with slightly better separation and resolution, creating a crisper soundstage. Thom Yorke’s vocals in Radiohead’s “Burn the Witch” are better isolated and the cymbals more in focus.

I don’t believe digital Hi-fi can ever sound truly “analogue” and nor should it, but the Aurender succeeds in marrying bit-perfect accuracy with a pleasing musicality, or perhaps its clever tech retains this emotion where other streamers lose it.

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Last edited by Joe on Sat Jan 21, 2017 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Michell Gyro Dec, Tecnoarm, Ortofon Rondo Blue, Project Phono Box RS + Power Box.
Aurender N100H, CDXT Sig, Chord Hugo TT.
MFA Classic v2, Chord SPM 1050 MkII, PMC Twenty 26.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby crimsondonkey » Fri Jan 20, 2017 8:43 pm

Good isn't it :)

(But you could have got one from Audio Emotion by the way).

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby callen24 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:46 pm

it should sound good shouldn't it - £2600
glad you are happy. good review
cyrus stream X2, CDi, Oppo HA-1SE, IMFs, Baby classicMk3, Mono X300,  VA Beethoven Baby Grand
ML binarystar digital, DenchXLR, RFCneptune RCA, VanDamme OFC spk cable. AG 500 ac regenerator and Townsend Seismic sink stand.
rega P3-24, psu, elys2, Clearaudio nano

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby Joe » Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:23 pm

crimsondonkey wrote:(But you could have got one from Audio Emotion by the way).

I did ;)
Michell Gyro Dec, Tecnoarm, Ortofon Rondo Blue, Project Phono Box RS + Power Box.
Aurender N100H, CDXT Sig, Chord Hugo TT.
MFA Classic v2, Chord SPM 1050 MkII, PMC Twenty 26.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby Bolts2109 » Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:51 pm

Ah ha... very good.

Great review, I can't disagree with a word, it's a great sounding, quality bit of kit.

Software-wise they need to make another move as the Conductor app is a little tired, but I'm feeling that they might do something good in that area soon, even if it's not Roon.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby Joe » Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:59 pm

MQA software support would be nice. I believe the A10 has hardware support due to the DAC.
Michell Gyro Dec, Tecnoarm, Ortofon Rondo Blue, Project Phono Box RS + Power Box.
Aurender N100H, CDXT Sig, Chord Hugo TT.
MFA Classic v2, Chord SPM 1050 MkII, PMC Twenty 26.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby Joe » Sat Jan 21, 2017 1:08 pm

Joe wrote:Tidal is integrated well. It’s lacking some of the features Auralic have such as featured releases and cross-platform favourites

*I'd like to retract this statement. Just noticed last night that it's all there, I just didn't see the buttons!
Michell Gyro Dec, Tecnoarm, Ortofon Rondo Blue, Project Phono Box RS + Power Box.
Aurender N100H, CDXT Sig, Chord Hugo TT.
MFA Classic v2, Chord SPM 1050 MkII, PMC Twenty 26.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby maro73 » Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:19 pm

Hi
I still need to cross check the Aurender .. which is a beauty
Just waiting now to hear Wayne's Aurender .. some comparisons may be ...
Other alternatives : Lumin U1 , and the Esoteric N05
Thanks a lot for the writing .. really good
Cheers

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby crimsondonkey » Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:56 pm

maro73 wrote:Hi
I still need to cross check the Aurender .. which is a beauty
Just waiting now to hear Wayne's Aurender .. some comparisons may be ...
Other alternatives : Lumin U1 , and the Esoteric N05
Thanks a lot for the writing .. really good
Cheers


Sadly I am not exhibiting at Scalford this year so you may not hear mine until later if I manage to launch something at which we can get together and listen to systems.

However if you came to the room Ben and I shared last year at Scalford, you may recall how good Ben's N100H sounded even through my muddled set up and low rent cables.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby Joe » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:24 pm

I've now got a shortcut on my desktop to the Aurender HDD so I can drag and drop my music right on there. Questioning my need for a NAS at all now.
Michell Gyro Dec, Tecnoarm, Ortofon Rondo Blue, Project Phono Box RS + Power Box.
Aurender N100H, CDXT Sig, Chord Hugo TT.
MFA Classic v2, Chord SPM 1050 MkII, PMC Twenty 26.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby SAP7 » Fri Jan 27, 2017 8:23 pm

I'm wondering about replacing my set up with a Melco or one of these. Only thing stopping me is that it works and sounds good. I could be chasing something that I don't really need.
Curious to hear your experience down the line as someone who had mt set up... NAS and stream x (albeit sig).

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby Joe » Sat Jan 28, 2017 12:40 pm

In my experience, digital transports have the smallest differences in sound quality in the Hi-fi chain (excluding cables) so what you're mostly paying for are the features and UI. If you're happy enough with what you've got, perhaps it's money best spent elsewhere.
Michell Gyro Dec, Tecnoarm, Ortofon Rondo Blue, Project Phono Box RS + Power Box.
Aurender N100H, CDXT Sig, Chord Hugo TT.
MFA Classic v2, Chord SPM 1050 MkII, PMC Twenty 26.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby Bolts2109 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 2:36 pm

Just one thing to correct in Joe's excellent review is that the Aurender Media Manager is also available for Windows.

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby SimonJ » Sat Jan 28, 2017 4:36 pm

Bolts2109 wrote:Just one thing to correct in Joe's excellent review is that the Aurender Media Manager is also available for Windows.


Great thread and thought Windows must be supported

Wayne is bringing his down when he picks up the DDDAC I am building him so it will probably be another expensive visit from him! ;D

Now I am back from the states I really must finish his DAC as last stages now 8)
Main system: GyroDec>Dynavector XX2MK2>Auralic Aries>Pimped DDDAC 1794>Coherant 4d>TE Vibe & Pulse PSU>Coherant 4D & 4D Mains>Sugden Sapphire FBA-800 & 4D Mains>Coherant 4D Speaker Cable>Focal 1028
Office - DIY System: MMStreamer>DDDAC>KT88 Valve Amp>Focal 1008

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Re: Aurender N100H

Postby Joe » Sat Jan 28, 2017 5:29 pm

Bolts2109 wrote:Just one thing to correct in Joe's excellent review is that the Aurender Media Manager is also available for Windows.

Oh good. I thought it must be by now but the support website seemed to still say it was Mac only.
Michell Gyro Dec, Tecnoarm, Ortofon Rondo Blue, Project Phono Box RS + Power Box.
Aurender N100H, CDXT Sig, Chord Hugo TT.
MFA Classic v2, Chord SPM 1050 MkII, PMC Twenty 26.


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