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Aurender N100SC caching music server and streamer Review

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Once tied to the home network via Ethernet, file transfer becomes intuitive akin to copying audio files on the computer hard drive to folders inside the Aurender. The two terra bytes capacity plus the Tidal streaming continues to serve my needs very nicely. The size of my music library had grown to such size that I couldn’t conceivably listen to even 25% of it in my lifetime unless I play music more than four hours a day on end. My practice of late is to put a core collection of the music I play at least once a month into the Aurender disk drive, followed by those I play once or twice a year. Music that I play even less frequently need not be included. The consequential size of my music comes to about 640 GB. I’m already accumulating DSD and 24/192KHz editions of my favorite music on CDs and LPs, and I’m hard pressed to find more new music and venturing further away from my beloved ones. The one thing that could trigger drastic expansion is digging deeper into jazz, then again it means less time enjoying and exploring my core collection.

Control of the functions of the Aurender is via the Aurender Conductor app on my 2015 Apple iPad Mini, and quirkiness such as lagging command processing time abounded. I recently visited an importer and found his tablet of more recent manufacture had smoother interaction with his Aurender W20. It is possible older tablets with their antiquated processors would experience slower response and occasional quirkiness in operations. The front panel of the N100SC can be set to display either detail of the file being played or an analog meter with a blue or yellow background.

Aurender N100SC rear panel


Aurender N100SC interior

The immediate advantage of the Aurender was the startlingly pristine state of CD music that emerged on the first note, prompting the realization of the crudeness of sound from my Apple MacBook Pro and Oppo UDP-205, pre-Aurender days. Tonal definition and spatial projection of instruments by the Aurender approached the Esoteric K-01XD physical disk playback level, conceding in ultimate textural and tonal differentiation.

The Aurender would be a highly qualified transport for the $153,000 Audio Note UK Fifth Element/Fifth Force DAC system for the tone-philes who, after purchasing the DAC, could no longer afford Audio Note UK’s own matching, $100,000 CDT-Six CD transport. Music with resolutions up to 24 Bit 96KHz, the upper limit of the ANUK DAC system, was reproduced with such beauty of tone, especially with solo instruments and the human voice, and yet with such degree of care that there was simply no likeness of it that I know of. The operational stability and sound quality of the Aurender was first-class in serving the Audio Note UK super DAC.

For rendering of DSD files, the Aurender again surpassed the Oppo UDP-205 as renderer considerably, in tandem with the Esoteric K-01XD in DSD decoding particularly. Not to be negligent of the fact that the Esoteric VRDS-ATLAS disc transport is arguably the most advanced disc reading mechanism design in existence for CD and SACD playback, and quite possibly the final generation in the no-disc-land of the day due to the cost of development when consumers are buying hi-res music files online increasingly, it is the player’s in-house designed and manufactured Master Sound Discrete DAC system, the most spectacular among DACs in its resolving power, that establishes the ultimate benchmark for its kind in the solid-state realm. Per its industry-leading economy of scale in R&D and market adoption, Esoteric prices the K-01XD at $23,000 and others have yet to come up with a competitive design at the same price without comparable R&D, manufacturing and marketing muscles. The Aurender is all the more impressive at $3,300 as a highly qualified companion to the Esoteric.

The Aurender’s track shuffling function can be set to randomly play all tracks on its hard-disk, symphonic or solo vocal, hard rock or solo piano, Beethoven’s Ninth or Sting, revitalizing age old collections of music, especially of the compilation discs of classical excerpts and of pop chart toppers. Imagine experiencing the Aurender shuffling your entire digital music collection, playing a Chopin Etude in one moment and then the “Blade Runner Blues” the next, followed by a presentation of Pink Floyd, etc. Select “Songs” then “Play Random”. It’s a magical musical experience every time. Let thyself be pampered and surprised.

To many, the crux of the Aurender’s existence must be its Qobuz and Tidal streaming functionality. I subscribe to Tidal and it has been a very useful music discovery tool prior to many of my LP, hi-res music files, SHM-SACD, UHQCD and similar purchases. Most titles are in 16 Bit 44.1KHz and the ones labeled “Master” in resolution come through in “192KHz” as indicated by the Esoteric K-01XD. Many of these files contain added ambience cues and midrange energy; title such as the Nicholas Britell soundtrack of The King carried awe-inspiring bottom-end resolution and force, as realized by the Sound Lab panels.

About 10% of music that I like can be found in the “Master” resolution on Tidal. Among which even less are on the SACDs that I own. Titles don’t stay on Tidal eternally, so plan to acquire ownership of music from various online merchants accordingly.

Power outages caused the Aurender operating system to cycle through time consuming system checks. My area experiences short PG&E outages almost every quarter, although there were two outages in a month recently. My leaving the Aurender’s power on subjected it to hard shutdown against which the owner’s manual warns, and the rebooting was a little more involving than I’d like. I have since made it a routine to put it into standby from the front panel when I go to sleep, and only turning it back on when I’m ready to listen to music. At least the PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 20 AC Regenerator is shielding it from potentially destructive surges, which at the same time imparts more vivid tonal presentation and superior dynamic contrasting to the Aurender, both significant performance upgrades.

The Aurender N100SC with the optional 2 terra bytes hard-disk is the great presenter of music in all formats, rendering music in spectacular resplendency for my indulgent desire. Ripped SACDs continued to exhibit superior tonal richness and soundstage three-dimensionality, but the Aurender elevated level of refinement of CD audio to such extent that I could be happy entirely on CD music if I hadn’t invested in the SACD format already.

The diminutive physique of the N100SC also equates flexibility in not only listening to hard-disk music in my main system but also for the upcoming System 2, as well as for headphone listening. A $3,300 digital audio file transport that plays nicely with the super DACs and is meticulously put together: the Aurender N100SC is the only high-end machine I know of that is fit to compliment the most high-end systems and yet costing a comparative penny. Recommended.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin


Review system:

PS Audio DirectStream Power Plant 20 AC regenerator

Acoustic Sciences Corporation TubeTraps
Audio Reference Technology Analysts EVO interconnects, power cable
Audio Reference Technology Analysts SE interconnects, power cables
Audio Reference Technology Super SE interconnects, power cables

Pass Laboratories Xs Preamp
Pass Laboratories XA200.8 pure class A monoblocks
Bricasti Design M28 class AB monoblocks
Margules Audio u-280SC Black ultralinear tube monoblocks
Sound Lab Majestic 645 electrostatic panels


2 Responses to Aurender N100SC caching music server and streamer Review

  1. Bill says:

    Good you went with an Ethernet cable connection. I had a similar devise from another company which used a sender and receiver box. It never worked from day one, and I am glad. I sent it back and have used Ethernet since.
    I think it wise to put money into outstanding components instead of gadgets.

  2. dana says:

    Aurender software (conductor app) used to be good, now it’s very buggy, and rapidly losing ground to Roon. As a small example, consider the following:

    1. In the past you could add favorite songs to the queue, and then save those queued songs as a playlist to Tidal. That functionality no longer works (at least for me).
    2. In the past, in Favorites the alphabet was listed along the right side of the screen. To jump to that letter, you could just touch it. That functionality is now gone. You now must scroll through all the songs. On an iPad mini with 1,700 Favorite songs that can take a very long time.
    3. In the past selecting “Songs”, and “Favorites”, one could easily scroll from beginning to end. Now only 50 songs load, and you must then touch “Load More”, reaaallly slow. With 1,700 songs you must go through this process 34 times!!
    a. Now after you finally scroll through dozens and dozens of screens to get to the desired Favorite song, and then you select an action (say play now). You lose your place in Favorites and then need to re-load all the songs AGAIN (see above 34 different screens to get to the letter Z).
    4. In the past, when you loaded Favorites into the queue, the songs maintained the solid (selected) star. Now some of the songs lose their solid star. So if you are listening to a song in the queue and decide it is no longer a Favorite, you can no longer deselect it, as it already shows it is deselected, though in fact, it isn’t.
    5. In the past, under “Songs”, “Favorites”, one could easily touch a star to deselect it and thereby remove it from Favorites. Now the song just gets added to the queue.
    6. I understand Wadax makes a nice server (Atlantis) that is both MQA compatible and a Roon Core. Now that Covid is over, time to find an audio show to take a listen and replace this very buggy Aurender. Isn’t convenience the point of streaming after all?

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