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Newport 2016: I want my Aurender

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Newport250x2501I usually come away from every audio show with at least one piece of gear that I am seriously smitten with. Normally that feeling, after a closer look at my bank statement, quickly fades away. Sometimes, though, the attraction of the new toy refuses to go quietly.

Such was the case at the T.H.E. Show in Newport. I went to the 14th floor of the Hotel Irvine to see my friend Robert Lee, the genius (IMHO) designer of Acoustic Zen speakers, who was sharing the room with New Mexico retailer High End Zone. After catching up with Mr. Lee, I sat down to audition his statement Maestro speakers ($43,000 a pair), a 67-inch tall, 4-way, ribbon-tweeter design that I never get tired of listening to.

I’ve long wanted a pair of these transducers, so they already were on the lottery-windfall list. But when I asked the room staff to cue something up, they passed me a wood-trimmed iPad running the coolest interface I’ve ever seen. The tablet was controlling an Aurender W20 music server ($17,600), which was sitting on a rack in between the speakers.

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I used my finger to scroll down seemingly endless pages filled with large, high-resolution graphics of album covers. I stopped and tapped Elton John’s second album, and before you know it “Sixty Years On” was playing.

The sound was very clean, dynamic and liquid. Even though it was digital, it seemed to have the depth and texture of analog, without the extra warmth or pops and clicks. And, the resolution was excellent for a Red Book source.

I flipped through a half-dozen (OK, maybe it was a full dozen) other favorite tracks, dazzled both by the ease of finding what I wanted and the clarity of each recording. One after another, the songs flowed from the rig — which also included Ypsilon electronics and Verastarr cable — with little effort on my part.

“It changes the way you listen to music,” Hi End Zone CEO Stefan Fuegi told me.

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The thought of having all my tunes at my fingertips was mind-blowing. “I actually might be able to get my wife to sign off on this,” I thought, mentally doing the math on 401(k) funds and estimated proceeds from eBaying about nine or 10 audio paperweights now stacked in the closet. And, my spousal unit surely would appreciate the dramatic reduction in verbal rants now caused by having to rummage through shelves, drawers and boxes looking for that misplaced Dire Straits bootleg or Stones remaster.

Fuegi said that for a while buyers could get a deal where a “reasonable number” of their compact discs would be digitized as part of the purchase. The customer would receive a sturdy box with a series of spindles inside. The CD owner would remove the discs from their jewel cases, stack them on the spindles and send the package off to a service that would convert the discs to files, complete with cover art. As for exactly what a “reasonable number” of albums might be, the answer seemed to be up for individual negotiation.

Aurender makes a few other servers at lower price points, but the W20 is the flagship. “It has higher parts quality and the latest technology,” Fuegi said.

The W20 does not have its own digital-to-analog converter. The buyer provides one, but that point doesn’t really bother me because most of us already have DACs we’ve carefully selected and laid out the long green for. What the W20 does have is storage space — a bucket-load of it. With 12TB of (6TB times two) internal hard disk drives and one 240GB solid-state drive cache for playback, the W20 could handle even my ridiculous hoard of CDs.

There’s been an explosion in the number of music servers being marketed, but the Aurender seems to have the build quality and performance to be embraced by even those with the highest-end systems. My lotto wish list just got longer.

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About John Stancavage (165 Articles)
Contributing Editor for Part-Time Audiophile

10 Comments on Newport 2016: I want my Aurender

  1. Dear John, thank you so much for the great coverage of our room. I love how your pictures came out. I know the room was dark, partly because it was so hot there on the 14th floor, and you did a great job of making your pictures come out bright in spite of it. Just seeing them makes me smile and feel happy.

    We just got our second Aurender. I feel guilty saying that to you when you may not have your first one yet. I hope that if you do decide that it’s the right product for you then you’re able to get one. Of course I’d be happy to help you with that acquisition anytime, please give me a shout. My contact info is on my website if you don’t still have it.

    I know that I thought long and hard before I bought my Aurender N10. I had taken the plunge to digital music repeatedly and just hadn’t made the best choices. I don’t want to “name names” but I had spent a lot on some systems that didn’t work out well. And eventually I came to the conclusion that while I’m absolutely happy to buy my electronics from a small, boutique firm like Ypsilon that for a digital music server it really needs a lot of support and that means programmers and that means a larger ecosystem than what I am used to with some of the other products I enjoy. So far I just couldn’t be happier with Aurender. I think ultimately I’ll end up with 3 of them. Well, until there is an in car model at least, then I would need a 4th! Who knows, with Carplay becoming widespread, maybe they can do it.

  2. There is another way to accomplish the same thing: I use a Macbook Air connected to my dac, and use Audirvana, which now has the ability to integrate Tidal through the player. They have an iOS app (not sure if there is an Android version), and use my iPhone or iPad to have complete control over Tidal. Its a nifty set up and definitely MUCH cheaper than the Aurender. Granted, it may not sound as “good” as the Aurender, but I’m really happy with it.

    I visited the same Aurender/Acoustic Zen room a couple of weeks ago at the Newport show and, like the author, I was impressed with the ability to control Tidal remotely. That was what inspired me to find a cheaper alternative.

  3. Aurender N100h…

    Pain in the neck to set-up
    Ugly UI
    Tech support is garbage
    Aurender “house sound” will be what you will hear — so if you like the sonic signature of your DAC, beware….
    Not Roon Ready and never will be

    DS

    • Are you sure we are talking about the same device? In my experience Aurenders are among the easiest to set up and the gui is almost impeccable

      • The gui is far from “impeccable”.’
        The cover art for the vast majority of my files is missing or incorrect.
        Adding new files from Tidal requires a reboot in order to get them to show up in Aurender.
        Aurender frequently shows all of my files from tidal in duplicate for no apparent reason.
        The description of albums from tidal is almost always grayed out in Aurender.
        The Pause Play function is unreliable (not a UI issue, but still….)
        And as for set-up, I would liken it to configuring a cable modem from scratch.

        DS

      • Aurender is Roon ready, should be the next big step on artist details, covers and more.

      • Aurender is not Roon ready. The only way to get Roon to recognize Aurender as an endpoint is through Airport, which significantly degrades the quality of the sound.
        Also, Aurender is not listed as a hardware partner on the Roon website.

      • That thread started a year ago. Still nothing….

  4. Dave Hermes // June 24, 2016 at 9:23 AM //

    To hear the Aurender is, often, to love the Aurender. I have the N10 model, which I upgraded to after owning the N100H for only two months. Many things I love:

    * The clear and rich sound quality
    * The elegant interface for playing music
    * The lack of an internal DAC, since (as you noted) most people who would buy an expensive music server already have a DAC or two or three that they already are happy with
    * The stability of the system

    Dave, who someday will try Tidal through his Aurender but for now the 2400-plus albums on the N10’s internal drives are enough music for most any occasion here at Chez Lapin

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