Review: Aurender N200 music server / streamers: Sound of the future.
Digital made easy
The Korean Aurender launched itself from the beginning into the world of digital players and servers and did it in a big way, developing its own solutions instead of using standard computer boards as a starting point, with its own clock circuits and digital outputs, power supplies. well-crafted, and also a proprietary operating system and control application. They did it very well and that is why from the beginning they have been a reference. This time we are going to test an intermediate product from its highly populated catalog, a novelty this year, the Aurender N200, which is a high-performance network server and player, with internal cache and storage capacity, and digital outputs (without internal DAC ).
Outside and inside
The packaging and the external appearance of the Aurender N200 are those of an exquisite and luxurious product, in fact that is the brand of the house. And although we will get into that later, those excellent sensations are also maintained in the handling: it is a pleasure to have it at home, in the team, and to use it. That said, the N200 maintains the basic Aurender design with its on / off button on the right of the device, and four control buttons on the left.
Flanking in this case a 6’9-inch color LCD screen (with a resolution of 1280 × 480 pixels) which, contrary to the current trend, is not tactile, which I think is a small defect, the same as not having a “direct” remote control (infrared or rediofrequency) since they are based on the use of your application on a mobile or tablet. The application is great, be careful, but in the end elementary things like stopping a song requires more than one action (or having the mobile or tablet with the screen always on).
The chassis of the Aurender is made of solid aluminum and by lifting the lid we discover its interior care. Before that, comment on the back and its connections: in addition to the power supply (IEC with switch) we have an Ethernet socket (which internally has double insulation, something important in habitually highly polluted domestic environments), two USB 3.0 for external storage, and the digital outputs (coaxial RCA and own USB with a dedicated and isolated internal plate). In addition, there are two bays for SSD or HDD drives of 2.5 inches easily accessible and safe, where we can have our internal library (with this we really would not need a NAS or anything external).
Inside the aurender N200 the power supply stands out: several filters for the domestic input current and two remarkable toroidal transformers as well as different capacitors worthy of an amplifier, all ensure a high quality linear power supply. The main board is covered by a large heatsink (there are no fans) and highlights an innovative detail that we had not seen: the power supply has a super capacitor that acts as a UPS. In other words, in case of specific power failures, or peaks with micro-cuts, where another device would reset itself (and there could be file corruption problems depending on when) the Aurender N200 remains on (or at rest). We tested it and it actually lasts a few seconds unplugged (more if it is at rest), very interesting and sure that others do not take long to copy it to devices such as these very sensitive servers.
The processor used in this model is a quad-core Intel that improves on the previous Aurender N100 with lower consumption and generation of eventual noise, and uses both more RAM (8 GB) and a state-of-the-art NVMe disk for the system. Finally, highlight the work of the two digital outputs (USB and RCA) with their own metal encapsulated circuits inside the device, all prepared to minimize electromagnetic interference.
Installation and commissioning
Our test unit came with a music-heavy SSD and ‘installation’ was as simple as taking it out of the box and plugging it into the computer – power, network, and DAC. Then we activate the application, which recognizes the device after which it gives a confirmation code … and that’s it, we can start listening to music. The screen can be configured to show the cover, information or some beautiful “vumeters” in the classic blue or yellow background, depending on the preference of each one, although personally I prefer that the player show me what sounds and the vumeters, if anything. , be a thing of the amplification …
When connecting an external storage, in the application menu we can choose if we want to incorporate that music to the internal hard drive or on the contrary make a copy. We will also be able to share the music with the rest of the network and, in short, the Aurender, in addition to playing the music, will be able to act as a server… but with its own program. It is not like other servers that allow the use of third-party programs, without going any further Roon, and that seems to me a defect in this case (less versatility). Of course, it is an easy and direct solution, possibly ideally oriented to those who do not have several players or mixed systems (like me). Finally, mention that it is compatible with MQA files (from Tidal or downloaded) but you have to activate a separate license for this.
To all this we tested the Aurender N200 in our two main systems, and with different DACs: the great Alchemy-Elac via USB, a connection also used to surprise us (again) what the simple Khadas DAC is capable of, but also its coaxial output. RCA to an older converter (Meridian) but thanks to that output it can continue to operate well if we use this Aurender. One point in favor, that of not having only USB output.
The arrival of the Aurender coincided with the presence in my equipment of the excellent darTZeel CTH-8550 amplifier that can be seen in the photos and the fact is that, for many days, I took it for granted that the sound profile that was seducing me was due to the device Swiss. In part it was (how darTZeel sounds…) but I soon discovered that it was also partly due to the Aurender. A sound that seduces you, very soft, calm, with a good base in bass (and rhythmic when the music needs it), with good information but without overwhelming or overwhelming … you immediately realize that you could listen to that equipment for hours and days without fatigue, and indeed it was.
As we have discussed in our tests more than once, reaching a certain level in digital sound the importance of “transport” is fundamental, and if this is a file player the factors that can optimize or spoil the result increase: power supply, noise isolation from the network, type of storage medium … We have seen in the past how a network player that seemed to have power but did not convince us at all, suddenly “played” when we disconnected it from the network and read only music from a USB ( or even an SD card in some case). Others took the leap when instead of their original “normalita” power supply (cheap switched adapter) we tried an oversized linear power supply, either from their own brand or from a specialist (or some “invention” that is not lacking in my basement …) .
The advantage of the Aurender N200 is that you do not need to invent or test anything, if only an already (very) fine adjustment at the cable level. The brand has been concerned not only with its beautiful external finish but also that its network connection has good insulation, that its digital outputs do not leave random loose ends, and that its power supply filters out possible noises well on the one hand, and on the other, even avoid problems in case of small cuts (remember that it has an internal mini-UPS). Even for those who set up a network at home with a computer or NAS, share hard drives and “all that” still sounds complicated (a bit it is, let’s not kid ourselves), the possibility of having up to two hard drives internal and two easy external storage connections, is another major advantage.
On a purely sound level, I only missed being able to use Roon since that system, in addition to having been seduced by its possibilities and how it orders or accesses music, also has many qualitative possibilities (use its DSPs, install HQplayer, etc.). But focused on Aurender’s own application, both with the internal music and that of my Tidal account, as I pointed out above, the truth is that the N200 offered me many hours of relaxed listening. And I really liked how well it got along with my Meridian in the basement kit (using the coaxial output). That reminds me that many hobbyists have “good” (or very good) DACs but from previous generations in which the USB input either does not exist or is not up to date (and it shows). For them the N200 and its coaxial output is a blessing.
+ Very high level digital sound, smooth profile and compatible with DSD / PCM and MQA
+ Ease of use with your application: zero problems and zero glitches
+ Excellent quality of finish, workmanship and design
+ RCA digital output in addition to USB
– Limited as a server with its own software
– No “dedicated” remote control or touch screen
Aurender N200 – 6200 euros