Bluesound Node 2i Wireless Multi-Room High-Res Music Streamer $549 Review

October 8, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“As I was nearing the end of the review period, a TAS colleague asked me if I could recommend a music server for a friend of his who wanted to dip his toes into the waters of streaming. The friend didn’t want anything fancy or complicated, nor did he want to spend a lot of money, but he did want something good and representative of both the quality and quantity of music available through streaming sources. Without hesitation I recommended the Node 2i. Truth in reporting requires me to point out that I’ve by no means even begun to audition everything that’s out there in sub-grand streamer/DACs. However, I have used the Node 2i daily for nearly half a year in superior sound systems where I was able to compare it directly to similar components costing over ten times its $549 asking price. So I am pretty confident saying you would be hard-pressed to find a package that dovetails convenience, selection of music, trouble-free streaming, build-quality, flexibility, and true high-end performance as impressively as the Node 2i. Add to this the fact that its provenance is NAD, a manufacturer with over four decades of making value-driven components that are synonymous with reliability and longevity. If all that isn’t persuasive enough, it costs less than most high-end cable manufacturers’ so-called “affordable” interconnects, and if you purchase it through the Bluesound website, you get thirty days to return it if you don’t like it. Meanwhile, if the streaming bug really bites you, the music server part of the 2i can be used in the clear with a more upscale DAC should you desire to go that route. (I used it into a Benchmark DAC3 and the DACs built into a McIntosh C52 preamplifier and a Marantz SA-KI Ruby SA-CD player, all with great results.)”

iFi Audio ZEN Blue Bluetooth receiver

October 7, 2020 § Leave a comment

Technics SL-G700 Network/SACD player REVIEW

September 28, 2020 § Leave a comment

Aurender N100SC caching music server and streamer $3,300 Review

September 21, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“Primary auditioning of the N100SC took place in conjunction with the new $23,000 Esoteric K-01XD SACD player and the $19,000 Bricasti Design M21 DSD DAC, although the Aurender also saw action with the $150,000 Audio Note Fifth Element/Fifth Force 24bit/96KHz DAC and the $8,500 Audio Research DAC 9 Tube (review forthcoming). Operating the Aurender involved downloading the company’s app onto my iPad Mini, which would control the choice of accessing the internal hard-disk directly for playback, or to connect up to two external USB hard-disks, or to access the Tidal streaming platform via Ethernet. Digital cable was the Light Harmonics Lightspeed USB.

The Aurender was connected to my home network via an Ethernet connection through a pair of Zyxel Powerline adaptors, one near the Xfinity router in the other room that transmits and another one in the same room as the Aurender for the receiving end. During the review period, the transmitting module malfunctioned and derailed the auditioning process; good thing Zyxel sent me a replacement two days later. Price to pay for Ethernet until the day comes when a new standard would allow wireless connection all the way.”

Street life with PLEX & Plexamp

September 16, 2020 § Leave a comment

Boulder 866 Integrated Amplifier DAC/Streamer $14,450 Review

September 6, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“Compared to the 75K worth of separates I use, the only thing I can say the 866 may not quite equal the duo in is density of image, sheer presence, and overall richness. To put that into perspective, richness and body have always been very important to me. What I’m getting from the Boulder’s strengths, its take on the music is so compelling on its own terms, I’m just not missing what’s not there. The 866 succeeds wildly on its own merits.

The Boulder 866 makes an incredibly compelling overall case. I had a feeling it would be good, but not this good. Like the surprise delivered by Boulder’s diminutive 508 phono stage, I was not prepared for how good the 866 would be, and to an even greater degree than the surprise delivered by the 508. No matter how you cut it this integrated amplifier DAC/streamer is a triumph of audio design and engineering. Do not skip over this piece if you are shopping any where near the price. And please, do not let the relatively compact stature fool you—this thing is a beast. It is truly cutting edge in sonics, capabilities, and construction. In 25 years of sampling audio gear, the Boulder 866 is one of the best audio components I’ve ever reviewed.”

NAD Masters M33 Review – Video

August 30, 2020 § Leave a comment

Boulder 866 Integrated Amplifier DAC/Streamer $14,450 Review

August 26, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“Compared to the 75K worth of separates I use, the only thing I can say the 866 may not quite equal the duo in is density of image, sheer presence, and overall richness. To put that into perspective, richness and body have always been very important to me. What I’m getting from the Boulder’s strengths, its take on the music is so compelling on its own terms, I’m just not missing what’s not there. The 866 succeeds wildly on its own merits.

The Boulder 866 makes an incredibly compelling overall case. I had a feeling it would be good, but not this good. Like the surprise delivered by Boulder’s diminutive 508 phono stage, I was not prepared for how good the 866 would be, and to an even greater degree than the surprise delivered by the 508. No matter how you cut it this integrated amplifier DAC/streamer is a triumph of audio design and engineering. Do not skip over this piece if you are shopping any where near the price. And please, do not let the relatively compact stature fool you—this thing is a beast. It is truly cutting edge in sonics, capabilities, and construction. In 25 years of sampling audio gear, the Boulder 866 is one of the best audio components I’ve ever reviewed.”

Auralic Altair G1 £1,900 Review

August 23, 2020 § Leave a comment

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“This is helped along by the extra features adding to the cohesiveness of the offering as a whole. The inclusion of AirPlay means sending extra streaming services to the Altair is completely straightforward and sounds entirely in keeping with the performance via network. In a perfect world, it would be partnered with Chromecast, but given that the Altair G1 supports lossless services via both Lightning and Roon, there is less pressure for it to be present than there might otherwise be. The inclusion of a headphone amp does go a fair way towards making up for the absence of Chromecast, though. Listening via Audio-Technica’s ATH-A2000Z headphone (HFC 412), the Altair G1 reveals the same compelling balance via the headphone output as it does the rear panel connections. It is easily the equal of many standalone models in the £250-£300 range and is another decidedly useful element built in.”

Cambridge’s CXN (V2) Review Video

August 18, 2020 § Leave a comment

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