The N10 is a good-looking, solidly finished piece of kit. Looking first at the hardware, three 2x9V, 25VA toroidal transformers behind the front panel form the basis of a hefty power supply. These drives, too, are mounted behind the front panel, in a small card frame. Playing cached files from the SSD also eliminates electrical and acoustic noise from spinning disks and moving heads. The circuitry is carried on a large, multilayer printed-circuit board, with a hefty heatsink over the microprocessor and the digital-audio-handling section shielded within a machined-aluminum subenclosure.
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A standalone music server is a device capable of storing and playing computer audio files and sending a bitstream to your DAC. The S10 looks right at home in a half-million-dollar system. Two active-matrix organic light-emitting diode AMOLED screens on its front panel normally display two blue or white meters; in its black case my review sample was silver , the S10 looks a bit like a McIntosh component. The S10 measures The S10 is basically a Linux computer with a 64GB solid-state drive, from which music files are read before being played, to minimize jitter.
Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillators are used for their extreme precision, to further minimize jitter. All of these functions are also available on the remote iPad app.
Unlike some other servers, which can use a variety of smart phones or tablets as remotes, the S10 works only with an iPad, which you provide -- none is included with the S But unless you want to use the iPad for other purposes I surely would , you need only a bare-bones model with Wi-Fi, not phone service, and not much memory. Of course, if you already have an iPad, that will reduce the overall system cost.
The manual is pretty decent, too -- it explains, clearly and simply, what you must do to get the iPad and S10 to shake hands, as well as how to use the Aurender app.
It requires some practice. No wall warts here -- hooray! The S10 uses both switch-mode and linear power supplies, as appropriate. The iPad connects wirelessly to the home router, and from there the router connects to the S10 via Ethernet, an increasingly popular arrangement. In addition to seeing service in TWBAS , my review sample had been used at a Consumer Electronics Show -- it was already well broken in and partially set up.
Installation in my home network was thus somewhat less of a hassle than other server installations have been, though there are always a few minor challenges. But once the S10 was installed, I found its operation straightforward and its response speedy. But as nice as a big screen is, you still need a good app to make a good remote control. The Aurender app was just terrific, with many more features than freebie open-source apps such as MPoD. Sooloos, too, has recently released an iPad control app for its system.
The operation was as easy as copying files from one directory to another on the computer -- a basic skill. I suspect the few exceptions were due to my attempts to force an unnatural organizational scheme on the files. The standard iPad display includes thumbnails of the cover art. I experienced one rare glitch in my attempts to upload files. Finally, I tried the feature on the Aurender app that lets you scan the hard drive by folder.
It was trivially easy; all I had to do was plug in the CD drive and insert a CD in the drawer; the S10 took care of the rest, ejecting the CD after a very speedy rip.
The S10 even got the cover art right. I still prefer using ripping software like dBpoweramp, which lets me rip uncompressed FLAC files, but lots of people would rather take the much easier way and let the S10 rip their CDs. I could hear a brief moan of disk activity as the S10 loaded a track onto the SSD. Although it has no fan, the S10 ran just slightly warm.
The entire case is apparently used as a heatsink; the substantial heatsinks along the side actually ran cooler than the case. Sound Reviewing high-priced gear always scares me a little: Would I be able to tell the difference between the S10 and lesser servers? It sounded flaming gorgeous! Remember when digitally reproduced strings sounded like fingernails on a blackboard?
The lack of smearing revealed a rhythmic tension and a forward momentum that have been a smidgen inaudible with other servers. The S10 made this album far more enjoyable than before -- which to me is, in a nutshell, the whole reason for the existence of high-end audio. Leading-edge transients were clean and incisive, though without any of the overemphasis that sometimes sounds impressive on a first hearing.
The overall experience was a bit like listening to a new -- and better -- album. Highs and lows were well-defined and extended but oh-so-smooth. On the same album, J. The S10 depicted the chorus with considerable detail, letting me easily hear individual voices.
So maybe the question of whether or not hi-rez recordings sound better needs further exploration. The Auraliti, too, is a Linux computer under its skin, but it uses Music Player Daemon to play audio files. The Auraliti is a small, simple black box that takes up less than half a shelf on your rack.
A wall wart provides electrical power an optional linear power supply is now available. In short, the Auraliti does nothing but play music files. Since the S10 made Seventeenth Century Music and Dance sound so good, I had to refresh my memory of how it sounded through my Auraliti. It sounded just as I recalled: sweet but a bit homogenized, lacking in texture and detail; in a word, lifeless. With For the Angel, Israfel and the organ prelude, the Auraliti produced just as much frequency extension as the S Then again, the Auraliti exhibited a greater sense of depth than the S It was close, though.
All in all, the Auraliti PK gave a good accounting of itself, with no obvious weaknesses. But the Aurender S10 surpassed it in virtually all areas, making the Auraliti sound a little mechanical by comparison. Bottom line Should you rush out and buy an Aurender S10? But what most impressed me about the Aurender S10 was that it made recorded music sound more real and more involving -- and more beautiful.
If digital sound reproduction has left you cold, you ought to give the Aurender S10 a listen. After hearing it, a good friend who has remained a staunch analog holdout observed that perhaps it was at last time to consider a digital system. In my view, the Aurender S10 advances the state of the digital art. Vade Forrester.
A solid-state drive cache for playback, a low noise linear power supply for audio circuits, fan-less design and extensive shielding using thick aluminum partitions also minimize and eliminate the many types of jitter and noise. All settings and functions of the Aurender Music Player can be easily accessed through the Settings menu, and the Aurender App comes with extensive features to make managing, viewing and playing high resolution music collections a breeze. If a selected song or album is already cached to the solid-state drive, the hard drive will remain asleep. This minimizes wear and tear on the hard drive. By caching songs to the solid-state drive for playback, jitter and noise resulting from spinning disks, moving heads and motors are also completely eliminated. Separate Power Supply for Audio Components Noise from AC power and other devices connected to the power mains is another major source of jitter and noise in the audio signal. In the Aurender S10, a low-noise linear power supply is used to effectively minimize jitter and noise.
But the latest component to take its place on my Townshend Seismic Stand has shaken the order of things to no small degree. Most of the alternatives in this field from Linn, Naim, Olive et al are multifunctional in that they are streaming clients that access music files from a remote drive or have built in ripping capability such as the Naim HDX, they also usually have access to net radio and music services. What makes the S10 interesting is both this dedication of purpose and the shear seriousness with which the company has approached the issue of clock induced jitter. The Aurender does not work entirely alone, it needs a wired network connection so that it can be controlled with an iPad and so that you can load music onto it from a computer. It can also, it turns out be used, as a streamer for material on attached NAS drives. The user interface is courtesy of the proprietary Aurender app, this shows a list of the albums, artists or tracks that you have loaded.