Starting with the looks let me tell you that the Flow is absolutely stunning! And I am not the only one to say so, it has received the prestigious Red-Dot Award for 2015, too, with the jury stating that the Flow’s “soft lines along the top of the device simplify access to this technical product. In addition, the control concept with a rotary knob and easily accessible lateral is a convincing feature” and I could not agree more, it just feels right. One can sense the construction quality that Aurender is famous for as soon as he gets his hands on one of the products. The single piece of milled aluminum sets the Flow above anything else in the semi-portable DAC/ headphone amp category.
I would not call the Flow a typical portable solution for two reasons. First, the size is not small enough to fit in your pocket (you would need a back pack to carry it around) and it can accommodate a solid state drive (SSD) up to 1 TB. This feature combined with a DAC designed around the ESS SABRE 9018 chip capable of PCM 32/384 and double DSD playback, hybrid USB/ battery power and a headphone amplifier strong enough to drive most of today’s top of the line headphones, translates into a bombshell of a device!
I did not waste time with the stands music selection, instead I plugged in my HTC mini 8 cell phone and played tunes with my current favorite app, Hiby Music, trying to explore the limits of this combo which included the Sennheiser HD 800 as well; there were none. The Flow pushed the HD 800 headphones with ease while keeping their notorious necessity for quality source and amplification more than satisfied. I must have passed maybe half an hour fiddling around with the Flow and listened to everything from Thievery Corporation and Lizz Write all the way to classic audiophile picks such as the “Song of the Nightingale” in DSD. There was texture, instrument separation and some of the most convincing vocal timbres I have ever heard from a relatively small device, one that can stand in the palm of my hand. (Editor’s Note: check out the full review, here.)
Before leaving the booth, I had to admire the quality of the Aurender products in general, laying in the back there was the complete line of streamers with clear covers, just check the pictures below. Layout and quality in the construction is so good that it would embarrass several so-called high-end manufacturers.
Also new: the new N10 server, retailing for $8,000. This is a replacement for the S10, their first entree into the super-server product category. There’s 240GB of SSD storage for caching (a big bump from the S10’s 64GB), as well as 4TB for local on-board storage. There’s an upgraded Ethernet input for connecting to a NAS and/or Tidal’s streaming service. The standard outputs, including USB, Toslink, Coax and AES/EBU are joined by a BNC input. Another big upgrade: a “fully linear” power supply, instead of the “hybrid” version found in the outgoing model. Availability scheduled for later this summer, though the website is saying “June 2015”.
Also also new: the new N100H server ($2,700). The “H” designation is for “harddrive”, adding 2TB of local storage for the N100’s streaming capabilities. This is a $200 upgrade to the base N100 model, and basically makes it into a full-service offering. Assuming USB-output is sufficient, of course. The other S/PDIF outputs (Toslink, Coax, AES/EBU or BNC) are becoming “speciality offerings”, and are all reserved for the more upscale models.