The world of high-end audio is a realm where enthusiasts demand nothing less than perfection. Melco, renowned for its premium music servers, has consistently aimed to meet these exacting standards. The flagship N1 S38 has long been hailed as the ultimate dream music server, setting a precedent for audiophile perfectionists seeking uncompromising sound quality. However, for those who seek a slightly more budget-friendly alternative without sacrificing quality, Melco now introduces the N5 H50. In this comprehensive review, we explore the N5 H50’s capabilities, design, and performance to help audiophiles navigate the high-end audio landscape and make informed choices in their pursuit of sonic excellence.
Unveiling the Melco N5 H50: The Melco N5 H50 isn’t just a more affordable counterpart to the N1 S38; it’s a music server that speaks to the well-heeled audiophile community. With a price tag of 9,000 euros, it’s an investment in uncompromising sound quality that beckons serious audiophiles. While some might argue that the step up to the N1 at 14,000 euros isn’t a significant leap for those considering the N5, it’s essential to recognize the unique value the N5 brings. Unlike the N1, the N5 doesn’t feature a 10-megahertz clock input, avoiding needing an external clock generator, which can cost thousands of euros. This review explores the N5 H50 as a holistic digital sound source, evaluating its capabilities as both a server and player, shedding light on its value to audiophiles with discerning ears and varying budget considerations.
About Melco Music Library:
Melco Music Library is a distinguished name in high-fidelity audio, revered for its unwavering commitment to delivering sonic perfection to discerning audiophiles. With a rich history of innovation and a portfolio of premium music servers, Melco has set a gold standard for digital audio excellence. The company’s dedication to crafting cutting-edge audio solutions is evident in the meticulous design and construction of its products, setting them apart as a beacon of quality and reliability in the industry. Melco’s devotion to preserving the integrity of music through meticulous engineering and uncompromising attention to detail has earned it a well-deserved reputation as a go-to brand for those who demand nothing less than the best in their pursuit of audio nirvana.
Type: Music server with HDD storage
Network connection: RJ45 Ethernet
Digital Outputs: RJ45 Ethernet, USB
Backup connection: 2x USB
Formats supported (player): DSF, DFF, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, AAC
Formats supported (server): DSF, DFF, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, MP3, WMA, OGG, LPCM
Sample rate/bit depth via USB: PCM up to 32-bit/384KHz . DSD up to 11.3 MHz
Server software: MinimServer, Twonky UPnP server, Roon Endpoint
User Interface: Melco control application, Roon
Dimensions (HxWxD): 77 x 440 x 353mm
Weight: server 10kg
Warranty: 2 years (5 years in the UK with registration), HDD 3 years
The Melco N5 H50, priced at an impressive 9,000 euros, embodies a unique combination of affordability and sonic excellence that makes it a standout in high-end audio. While the world of audiophilia often demands hefty investments for uncompromising sound quality, the N5 H50 challenges this notion by presenting a compelling alternative that caters to a well-heeled buyer group. At first glance, some may question the affordability label, especially in a world where high-end audio can reach astronomical price points. Still, in the context of what the N5 H50 brings, it represents a noteworthy value proposition.
The allure of the N5 H50’s “affordable elegance” lies in its ability to bridge the gap between audiophile perfection and budget considerations. For many prospective buyers who can afford the N5, the incremental step up to the N1 at 14,000 euros might not seem as vast as it once did. However, the N5 offers a compelling compromise by eschewing a 10-megahertz clock input, eliminating the need for a costly external clock generator that could add substantial expenses. This strategic decision positions the N5 as a more budget-friendly entry point to uncompromising audio quality, making it an attractive choice for those who want to elevate their listening experience without breaking the bank. While it may not be as elaborate or luxurious as its flagship sibling, the N5 H50 is a prime example of how Melco strives to make high-fidelity audio accessible to a broader audience while maintaining the essence of sonic excellence. In essence, the N5 H50 encapsulates the concept of “affordable elegance,” marrying exceptional sound quality with a price point that welcomes a broader spectrum of audiophiles into the world of high-end audio.
A Holistic Digital Sound Source:
The Melco N5 H50 isn’t just a music server; it’s a holistic digital sound source that transcends the traditional boundaries of audio components. What makes the N5 H50 unique in the audiophile landscape is its versatility and comprehensive approach to delivering a complete audio experience.
While some audiophiles may view a music server primarily as a source for their audio system, the N5 H50 extends its role by also serving as a player. This distinction is crucial, as it broadens the N5’s utility beyond that of a conventional server. Integrating server and player functionalities allows audiophiles to streamline their setup, reducing the need for additional components and potential signal degradation that may occur when a server and player are separate entities.
Incorporating player capabilities, the N5 H50 promotes a simplified and coherent approach to music playback. It aligns with the philosophy that the digital source is a pivotal element in the audio chain, affecting the overall sound quality. In this context, the N5 H50 is a cornerstone, offering users a centralized hub for managing, streaming, and playing their music. This approach enhances the synergy between components, improving the overall listening experience.
Moreover, the N5 H50’s dual role as a server and player supports a more cost-effective, space-efficient, and elegant audiophile solution. The need for additional streamers or players can be mitigated, reducing complexity and enhancing the purity of the signal path.
In summary, the Melco N5 H50 is a holistic digital sound source that goes beyond the confines of traditional music servers, offering audiophiles an integrated solution that harmonizes the digital audio ecosystem. It simplifies the listening experience, optimizes the audio chain, and provides a cost-effective and versatile approach to achieving sonic excellence.
The Melco N5 H50 is not only a testament to its sonic prowess but also a masterpiece of meticulous design and impeccable build quality. Every facet of its construction exudes an aura of luxury and substance that assures audiophiles that they have invested in a product of the utmost refinement and craftsmanship.
One of the first elements that captivate the beholder is the N5 H50’s design, characterized by a sleek and minimalist aesthetic. Its exterior, with solid, gray, anodized corner elements, showcases a visually striking presence. The thoughtful integration of blue LEDs that illuminate the front during playback, transitioning to green and red when in standby, adds a touch of sophistication. The OLED display in the middle is both elegant and highly legible, even from a modest distance. The N5’s design, in essence, combines functionality with elegance, presenting a product that is not only a high-performance audio device but also a visual work of art that complements any high-end audio setup.
Underneath its stylish exterior lies an engineering marvel that exemplifies Melco’s unwavering commitment to quality. Notably, the N5 H50 ditches using a standard SSD for its music storage. Instead, it employs a carefully selected HDD from Buffalo, Melco’s audiophile brand. The choice of an HDD over an SSD may raise eyebrows in a music server of this price category, but there’s a crucial distinction that sets the N5 apart. Melco’s special HDD operates without the internal trimming process commonly found in consumer SSDs. This trimming, while intended to extend the lifespan of SSDs, strains system resources and can hurt sound quality. By adopting this unique HDD solution, Melco ensures that the N5 remains true to its primary purpose – delivering unparalleled sonic excellence. Furthermore, the meticulous mounting of the HDD in the HS3 sandwich minimizes vibrations and resonances, guaranteeing a pristine listening experience.
The overall build quality of the N5 H50 is nothing short of exceptional. Its substantial weight of ten kilograms imparts a sense of heft and solidity, assuring users that they’ve invested in a product built to stand the test of time. The Melco N5 H50 is designed to be a long-term audio companion, promising years of reliable performance and aesthetic pleasure.
In summary, the Melco N5 H50’s design and build quality reflect the highest standards of craftsmanship and attention to detail. Its minimalist yet sophisticated design enhances any audiophile’s listening environment. At the same time, its exceptional build quality and choice of components ensure that it remains a reliable and enduring piece of audio equipment. Melco’s commitment to delivering not only superior sound but also an exquisite physical presence makes the N5 H50 a coveted addition to any high-end audio system.
The Melco N5 H50 impresses not only with its exceptional sound quality and build but also distinguishes itself through a range of user-friendly features and seamless usability that caters to the needs of audiophiles, making it a delight to incorporate into a high-end audio setup.
1. Menu Interface and Display: The N5 H50’s user-friendly experience begins with its intuitive menu interface. Whether setting up the server or navigating its features, the menu design ensures you can effortlessly access and configure settings. The black-and-white OLED display, situated in the middle of the front panel, not only adds to the unit’s elegant aesthetics but also offers a clear and easily readable visual guide, even from a moderate distance. This display simplifies adjusting settings and monitoring the server’s status, contributing to a hassle-free user experience.
2. Remote Access: A noteworthy aspect of the N5’s user-friendliness is its compatibility with various devices. Users can set up the N5 H50 not only via its onboard menu but also remotely using a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Upon booting up the server, it displays a unique device ID, facilitating quick and convenient access for remote configuration through a web browser. This remote accessibility enhances the ease with which audiophiles can tailor the server to their preferences, simplifying the initial setup and future adjustments.
3. Melco Music HD App: Melco enhances the user experience with the Melco Music HD app, which is the preferred control interface for most users. Based on the well-regarded Mconnect app, it facilitates access to streaming portals and the extensive internal music library, which boasts an impressive five terabytes of storage capacity. This app’s intuitive and user-friendly interface lets audiophiles navigate their music collection and streaming services with ease, adding convenience to their listening sessions.
4. Music Library Expansion: As audiophiles frequently expand their music libraries, the N5 H50 accommodates this need by allowing straightforward music library expansion. Users can request a new import through the menu, ensuring that any new music files added to the server, whether ripped from CDs or imported via USB, are quickly integrated into the library. This streamlined process simplifies music management, allowing for a seamless listening experience.
5. Versatile Connectivity: The N5 H50 offers a range of connectivity options, from optical SFP input for fiber optic connections to USB 3.0 ports at both the front and rear for data backup, file transfer, or even connecting an external CD drive for ripping and saving music. These versatile connection options ensure that users can easily integrate the N5 into their existing audio setup, making it a versatile and user-friendly addition to their systems.
In conclusion, the Melco N5 H50’s user-friendly features and usability are designed to enhance the overall listening experience. From its intuitive menu interface and remote accessibility to the Melco Music HD app and versatile connectivity options, the N5 prioritizes simplicity and convenience, ensuring that audiophiles can easily manage and enjoy their music collections without the complexities often associated with high-end audio systems. This user-centric approach reinforces the N5 H50’s position as a compelling choice for both seasoned audiophiles and those new to high-fidelity audio.
The Melco N5 H50 doesn’t just deliver exceptional sound quality; it also distinguishes itself through its versatile and comprehensive connectivity options, enabling seamless integration into a wide range of high-end audio systems. Its connections and connectivity features play a pivotal role in ensuring that audiophiles can effortlessly incorporate the N5 H50 into their setups while maintaining the highest level of sound fidelity.
1. Optical SFP Input: One of the standout connectivity features of the N5 H50 is its optical SFP (Small Form-Factor Pluggable) input. This unique option enables users to establish a fiber optic connection to compatible switches with SFP outputs. Fiber optic connections, particularly when using an SFP module, offer galvanic isolation, reducing the potential for electrical noise and interference in the audio signal. This connection not only enhances sound quality but also provides flexibility for those who prioritize signal purity and isolation from the rest of the audio system.
2. USB 3.0 Ports: The N5 H50 boasts two USB 3.0 ports—one on the front panel and another at the rear. These ports serve multiple purposes, making the N5 a versatile hub in your audio setup. Users can connect appropriate storage media for data backup, transfer new music files, or even attach an external CD drive for ripping and saving music. This flexibility ensures audiophiles can manage their music collection efficiently, regardless of their preferred storage or backup method.
3. LAN Input and Player Output: The N5 H50 offers a LAN input and a LAN output labeled “Player.” The LAN input serves as the gateway for network connectivity, facilitating access to streaming services and the internal music library. The “Player” output, on the other hand, is a feature that sets the N5 apart. It allows users to control a streaming bridge, enhancing the overall usability and versatility of the server.
4. Data Filtering and Cleaning: The N5 H50 incorporates a software module that identifies and filters out music-related data when transferring audio files from the network. This filtering process ensures that the data stream sent to the audio system is as clean and free from unwanted elements as possible. This attention to detail doesn’t just benefit the LAN output but also significantly enhances the USB output, resulting in an optimized audio signal that’s delivered to your digital-to-analog converter (DAC) or other audio components.
5. High-Quality Connection Sockets: Melco’s commitment to quality extends to the choice of connection sockets. The N5 H50 features high-quality connection sockets from Amphenol, renowned for their robustness. This is a crucial consideration for audiophiles, as heavy, high-end connection cables can potentially cause mechanical damage to less durable sockets. Melco’s use of such high-quality sockets ensures that users can connect their audio components with confidence, knowing that their connections are secure and free from compromise.
In summary, the Melco N5 H50’s connections and connectivity options are a testament to the company’s dedication to providing a seamless and integrated experience for audiophiles. From advanced fiber optic connections to versatile USB ports and even the incorporation of data filtering and cleaning, the N5 H50 ensures that users have the tools to effortlessly integrate it into their high-end audio systems while maintaining the utmost sound quality and signal purity. These connectivity features enhance the overall usability of the N5, making it a compelling choice for audiophiles seeking both versatility and uncompromising audio performance.
At the heart of the Melco N5 H50 lies a dedication to sound quality that transcends the ordinary, setting it apart as an exceptional component in high-end audio. Its audiophile-grade performance and unwavering commitment to sonic excellence are evident in every note it delivers.
1. Objective Clarity: The N5 H50 impresses with its ability to render music with remarkable clarity and precision. Every instrument and nuance within a recording is presented with an exceptional level of detail. The sound quality is characterized by its objectivity, with an uncolored and transparent sonic signature. This allows audiophiles to hear their music exactly as it was intended by the artist, free from any undue coloration or distortion.
2. Richness of Information: Beyond its objectivity, the N5 H50 excels in conveying the richness of information within a music recording. It delivers an immersive listening experience that allows listeners to uncover subtle details and nuances that might have gone unnoticed with other audio components. This capacity for information retrieval contributes to the depth and engagement of the listening experience, making it a compelling choice for audiophiles who seek to connect with their music on a profound level.
3. Spatial Representation: The N5’s portrayal of spatial representation is another area where it shines. It creates a soundstage that is both expansive and well-defined, allowing listeners to feel the presence and placement of instruments within the mix. This spatial accuracy enhances the realism of the listening experience, making it feel as if the performance is unfolding right in the listening room.
4. Harmonious Integration: While some audio components may prioritize individual aspects of sound quality, the N5 H50 excels in achieving a harmonious integration of all sonic elements. It creates a balanced and cohesive sonic presentation that doesn’t emphasize one aspect at the expense of others. This balanced approach ensures that listeners can enjoy a holistic and well-rounded musical performance, enhancing the overall enjoyment of their audio system.
5. Musicality: Beyond its technical prowess, the N5 H50 possesses a unique musicality that distinguishes it. It can breathe life into music, allowing it to flow and resonate with emotion. This is particularly evident in its portrayal of instruments and vocals, creating a connection with the listener that transcends mere audio playback.
In summary, the Melco N5 H50’s sound quality is a testament to its unwavering commitment to delivering an exceptional audio experience. It combines objectivity, information richness, spatial accuracy, harmonious integration, and musicality to offer sonic excellence that caters to the most discerning audiophiles. Its sound quality isn’t just technically impressive; it’s emotionally engaging, ensuring every listening session is a journey of musical discovery and emotional connection. The N5 H50’s ability to faithfully reproduce music elevates it to prominence in high-fidelity audio, making it a compelling choice for those who demand only sonic perfection.
To truly understand the capabilities and uniqueness of the Melco N5 H50, it’s crucial to examine how it stacks up against other audio components and its performance in real-world musical comparisons.
1. Clarity and Detail: Compared to other high-end audio components, the N5 H50’s exceptional clarity and detail retrieval immediately become apparent. Music played through the N5 exhibits an uncanny precision, with every instrument and subtlety rendered with utmost accuracy. This level of clarity surpasses many other components, allowing listeners to discover nuances in their music that were previously concealed.
2. Spatial Accuracy: The N5 H50’s representation of spatial accuracy is another area where it excels in musical comparisons. When pitted against other audio systems, the N5’s soundstage appears more expansive and well-defined, providing a heightened sense of immersion. This precision in spatial representation makes it feel as though the instruments and vocals are genuinely present in the listening room, creating a profound musical experience that rivals or surpasses other components.
3. Emotional Resonance: The N5 H50 is not just about technical superiority; it also excels in conveying the emotional resonance of music. Compared to other components, the N5 brings a unique musicality that allows music to flow with emotion. Instruments and vocals come alive with depth and expressiveness that resonates with listeners profoundly. This ability to connect emotionally with the music sets the N5 apart and often places it in a league of its own in musical comparisons.
4. Balanced Integration: Unlike some audio components that may prioritize specific aspects of sound quality, the N5 H50 maintains a balanced integration of all sonic elements. This approach ensures that the listening experience is well-rounded and harmonious, avoiding overemphasizing one aspect at the expense of others. Compared to other components, the N5’s balanced presentation stands out, delivering a cohesive and holistic musical performance.
5. Real-World Comparison: One insightful, real-world comparison involves streaming music from the N5 H50 alongside high-end audio systems. When the N5 is contrasted with these systems, its ability to reproduce music with exceptional clarity and musicality often becomes evident. Listeners may find that their music comes to life in a way that surpasses their previous listening experiences, leading to a newfound appreciation for their favorite tracks.
In conclusion, musical comparisons reveal the Melco N5 H50’s prowess in delivering an extraordinary listening experience. Whether it’s the clarity and detail, spatial accuracy, emotional resonance, balanced integration, or real-world impact on music enjoyment, the N5 consistently distinguishes itself in the audiophile landscape. Its unique blend of technical excellence and emotional engagement sets it apart as a premier choice for those who seek musical perfection in their high-end audio systems.
Comparison to CD Playback:
One of the ultimate tests for any high-end audio component is how it compares to the revered CD playback, known for its exceptional audio quality and the emotional connection it can establish with listeners. When pitted against CD playback, the Melco N5 H50 doesn’t just hold its ground; it often surpasses it in various aspects, further solidifying its position as a pinnacle of audiophile excellence.
1. Sonic Fidelity: The Melco N5 H50 excels in capturing the essence of CD playback and delivering it with remarkable fidelity. Its sonic presentation is characterized by an exceptional level of clarity and precision, akin to what one would expect from a high-quality CD player. This attention to detail ensures that every instrument and vocal is rendered accurately, allowing listeners to experience their music as if it were being played directly from a compact disc.
2. Realism and Spatial Accuracy: Where the N5 H50 often distinguishes itself is in its portrayal of spatial accuracy and realism. It creates a soundstage that is expansive, well-defined, and immersive, mirroring the spatial qualities associated with CD playback. The instruments and vocals are positioned precisely, evoking a sense of presence and authenticity. The N5’s ability to recreate the realism of CD playback while offering the convenience of digital music files is a testament to its audio prowess.
3. Information Retrieval: The Melco N5 H50’s capacity for information retrieval is another area where it stands tall compared to CD playback. It can extract subtle details and nuances from music recordings that may have gone unnoticed during standard CD playback. This heightened information retrieval enriches the listening experience, allowing audiophiles to delve deeper into their music and uncover hidden intricacies.
4. Convenience and Versatility: While CD playback is revered for its audio quality, it lacks the convenience and versatility that digital music files offer. The Melco N5 H50 bridges this gap by combining the audio fidelity of CD playback with the flexibility of digital music storage. It allows users to manage extensive music libraries, rip CDs for storage, and access streaming services – all while maintaining the exceptional sound quality associated with CD playback.
5. Emotional Engagement: Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the N5 H50’s comparison to CD playback is its ability to preserve and enhance the emotional engagement that music can evoke. It doesn’t merely reproduce music; it infuses it with a depth of emotion and musicality that resonates with listeners on a profound level. This unique trait sets the N5 apart as a transcendent audio component.
In summary, the Melco N5 H50’s comparison to CD playback highlights its ability to rival and often surpass the revered sound quality of CDs while offering the convenience and versatility of digital music. Its commitment to sonic fidelity, spatial accuracy, information retrieval, emotional engagement, and versatility positions it as an exceptional choice for audiophiles seeking a bridge between the legacy of CDs and the modern world of digital music. The N5 H50 redefines what is possible in high-end audio, offering an extraordinary listening experience that celebrates the best of both analog and digital audio worlds.
In high-end audio, the Melco N5 H50 stands as a remarkable testament to excellence. From its meticulously engineered design and exceptional build quality to its user-friendly features and versatility, the N5 H50 is a shining example of what an audiophile music server can achieve. Its sound quality is nothing short of breathtaking, delivering clarity, detail, and emotional resonance that sets it apart as a true masterpiece in the audio realm.
Not only does the N5 H50 meet the exacting standards of audiophiles, but it also bridges the gap between the timeless allure of CD playback and the modern convenience of digital music. In musical comparisons and when measured against CD playback, the N5 often emerges as the superior choice, offering the best of both worlds. Its harmonious integration of technical excellence and musicality creates an extraordinary listening experience that leaves a lasting impression. The Melco N5 H50 is a triumph of engineering and artistry, setting a new standard for what audiophiles can expect from a music server. It’s not merely a component; it’s an invitation to embark on a transcendent audio journey, one that celebrates the sheer joy of music in its purest form.
Reasons to Buy the Melco N5 H50:
- Exceptional Sound Quality: The Melco N5 H50 offers an audiophile-grade listening experience with remarkable clarity, detail, and emotional resonance. It provides a sound quality that rivals or surpasses CD playback, ensuring an immersive and captivating musical experience.
- Advanced Build and Design: The N5 H50 boasts an impressive build quality, with attention to detail in its construction. Its robust design minimizes resonances while using high-quality components enhances its longevity and performance.
- Versatile Connectivity: The server provides a range of connectivity options, including optical SFP input, USB 3.0 ports, and LAN connections. It’s adaptable to different audio setups and preferences, offering flexibility for users.
- User-Friendly Features: The Melco Music HD app and intuitive menu interface make the N5 H50 user-friendly, providing convenient remote access and music library management. Its features simplify the setup and day-to-day usage.
- Balanced Integration: The N5 H50 harmoniously integrates various sonic elements, ensuring a well-rounded and cohesive musical performance. It strikes a balance between technical excellence and musicality.
Reasons Not to Buy the Melco N5 H50:
- Premium Price: The N5 H50 is a high-end audio component with a significant price tag. If you’re on a tight budget or seeking a more cost-effective solution, the N5’s price may be a deterrent.
- Storage Limitations: For users with extremely extensive music libraries, the N5’s storage capacity may be insufficient. External storage solutions may be necessary, potentially adding complexity to the setup.
- Technical Complexity: The N5 H50 is designed for audiophiles who appreciate technical intricacies. If you prefer a more straightforward, plug-and-play solution, the N5’s advanced features and configurations may be overwhelming.
- Subjective Sound Preferences: Sound preferences are highly subjective, and what sounds extraordinary to one listener may not resonate with another. Consider whether the N5’s sonic characteristics align with your specific musical inclinations.
- Compatibility: Ensure the N5 H50 seamlessly integrates with your existing audio setup. Compatibility with other components, such as DACs, amplifiers, and speakers, is crucial to avoid technical challenges or mismatches.
Ultimately, the decision to buy or not buy the Melco N5 H50 depends on your individual preferences, budget constraints, and specific audio setup requirements. It’s a compelling choice for audiophiles who demand exceptional sound quality, build, and features. However, carefully evaluate whether it aligns with your needs and priorities to make an informed decision that enhances your audiophile journey.