Reviews

Review: PS Audio AirLens Network Streamer: A Sonic Revolution

Review: PS Audio AirLens Network Streamer: A Sonic Revolution -"Embark on an audio odyssey with PS Audio's AirLens, redefining streaming elegance and sonic perfection."
4.3/5 - (3 votes)

Introduction

In the ever-evolving realm of audiophilia, the PS Audio AirLens Network Streamer emerges as a harbinger of sonic revolution, promising to redefine how enthusiasts engage with their music. Beyond being a mere conduit for digital signals, the AirLens is a testament to PS Audio’s unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of audio streaming technology. Designed as a standalone device, this review embarks on a comprehensive exploration of the AirLens, dissecting its technological intricacies, unraveling its impact on sonic landscapes, and ultimately uncovering why it stands out in a crowded market.

A Legacy of Excellence: PS Audio’s Sonic Odyssey To understand the significance of the AirLens, one must delve into the rich legacy of PS Audio, a stalwart in the high-end audio industry. From the acclaimed DirectStream DAC series, the AirLens inherits a tradition of excellence and a commitment to sonic purity. This introduction follows PS Audio’s journey, highlighting key milestones and contextualizing the AirLens within the brand’s evolution. As we embark on this sonic odyssey, the anticipation builds for unveiling a device that promises to elevate the audiophile experience to unprecedented heights.

A Sonic Epoch: The Essence of PS Audio: Founded on a passion for uncompromised audio excellence, PS Audio is a venerable institution in high-end audio. Nestled against the majestic Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Colorado, the company has become synonymous with innovation, craftsmanship, and a steadfast dedication to delivering the highest caliber musical experiences. Boasting a family-owned and operated ethos, PS Audio combines tradition with cutting-edge technology, crafting products that redefine the boundaries of audiophile expectations. With a lineup that includes the iconic DirectStream DAC series and now the groundbreaking AirLens Network Streamer, PS Audio continues to shape the auditory landscape, inviting enthusiasts on a journey where every note is a revelation. As more than just a purveyor of audio equipment, PS Audio is committed to preserving the spirit of great music, ensuring that its products resonate with the harmonies of tradition and progress.

Specifications – AirLens

General
Unit Weight4.8 lbs [2.2 kg]
Unit Dimensions10” x 7” x 1.5” [ 25.4cm x 17.8cm x 3.8cm]
Shipping Weight6.8 lbs [3.1 kg]
Shipping Dimensions5.8” x 13.6” x 11.6” [14.6 cm x 34.6 cm x 29.4 cm]
Color OptionsBlack, Silver
Voltage OptionsUniversal
Mains Power Input100-240VAC 50-60Hz
Power Consumption5W Typical/10W max
Accessories IncludedPower cord
Input10/100/1000 Ethernet or 2.4 & 5GHz WIFI
Audio Outputs12s, S/PDIF Coax
Features
Audio Interface• PCM: Up to 352.8kHz/32
• Native DSD up to DSD256 (I2S output)
• DoP (DSD over PCM) up to DSD128 (Coax output)
Network Support• WiFi: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5GHz dual band)
• 10/100/1000 Ethernet
WiFi Setup• WPS
Connectivity• DLNA 1.5 & UPnP AV 1.0 Digital Media Renderer
• Spotify Connect
• Roon Ready
• TIDAL Connect
• Qobuz (through Roon)
• Dropbox (through Roon)
• MQA

PS Audio and the Evolution of AirLens:

In the dynamic landscape of high-end audio, PS Audio has emerged as a trailblazer, continually evolving to meet the ever-changing demands of audiophiles. The evolution of the AirLens Network Streamer represents a pivotal chapter in PS Audio’s journey, marked by a commitment to innovation and a relentless pursuit of sonic excellence. Stemming from the legacy of the acclaimed DirectStream DAC series, the AirLens stands as a testament to PS Audio’s adaptability and foresight in anticipating the needs of discerning listeners.

The narrative of PS Audio’s evolution is one of constant refinement and technological prowess. From the early days of crafting audio solutions to the present, where the AirLens takes center stage, the brand has consistently pushed the boundaries of what is achievable in audio reproduction. This section unravels the evolutionary tapestry, shedding light on the transformative moments and technological milestones that have shaped PS Audio’s trajectory. The AirLens, as a standalone streaming bridge, exemplifies the culmination of years of expertise, reflecting a product evolution and a paradigm shift in how audiophiles engage with and experience music.

Galvanic Isolation and Reclocking Magic:

Galvanic Isolation and Reclocking Magic: Elevating Sonic Purity

The Essence of Galvanic Isolation: At the core of the AirLens Network Streamer lies the revolutionary technology of galvanic isolation. This pivotal feature separates the input and output stages, ensuring an absolute elimination of any physical electrical connection. This subheading delves into the intricacies of galvanic isolation, exploring how it shields the audio signal from external noise sources, grounding issues, and potential interference. By creating a dedicated and isolated environment for the digital audio signal, galvanic isolation becomes the bedrock for achieving unparalleled signal purity.

Reclocking Precision: This section dissects the reclocking magic embedded in the AirLens, an innovative process that addresses the critical stability of timing in digital audio signals. With the Digital Lens technology, the streamer employs a variable RAM buffer to collect and store data before sending it to the DAC through a high-precision, low-jitter fixed clock. The discussion unfolds the significance of reclocking in eliminating jitter-induced distortions, providing audiophiles with a clean, stable, and low-jitter digital audio signal. The results are not just technical advancements; they translate into a listening experience where streamed music rivals the quality of local playback, marking a paradigm shift in sonic fidelity.

The AirLens in Action: Listening Impressions:

Transitioning from the technical intricacies to the tangible world of auditory experiences, this section embarks on a sonic journey with the AirLens Network Streamer. Through meticulous listening tests and comparisons, readers are immersed in the nuanced impressions and revelations facilitated by the AirLens. The discussion extends beyond specifications to the qualitative aspects of sound reproduction.

1. Unveiling Fundamental Tones and Dynamics: A critical focus is how the AirLens enhances fundamental tones, creating a more pronounced and dynamic audio landscape. The discussion unveils the streamer’s ability to elevate the power and resonance of low frequencies while maintaining clarity across the spectrum. By dissecting specific musical pieces, the section vividly portrays how the AirLens breathes new life into familiar tunes, delivering an immersive and captivating listening experience.

2. Musicality Across Genres: Diving into various music genres, from classical orchestras to contemporary jazz, the AirLens proves its adaptability and prowess. The review outlines how the streamer navigates the diverse intricacies of different musical styles, highlighting its capacity to convey the emotional nuances embedded in each piece. Whether it’s the intricate details of a classical composition or the rhythmic complexity of modern genres, the AirLens consistently exhibits a musicality that resonates with audiophiles seeking a holistic and authentic sonic presentation.

3. Adaptability to DAC Configurations: The review further explores how the AirLens seamlessly integrates with different DAC configurations. Whether paired with PS Audio’s DAC models or other high-end digital-to-analog converters, the section outlines the streamer’s adaptability and ability to synergize with diverse setups. This adaptability makes the AirLens a standalone streaming solution and a versatile companion for audiophiles with varied preferences and equipment.

In essence, “The AirLens in Action” section offers a sensory exploration, capturing the transformative impact of the AirLens on the way music is perceived and enjoyed.

Versatility in Streaming and Compatibility:

Beyond its technical prowess, the AirLens orchestrates a symphony of streaming possibilities and device compatibility, making it a versatile and future-ready addition to any audiophile setup.

1. Roon Ready: Unleashing the Power of Integration: As a Roon Ready device, the AirLens seamlessly integrates into the Roon ecosystem, allowing audiophiles to harness the power of Roon’s intuitive interface and extensive music library management. The section delves into how the AirLens synchronizes with Roon, providing users with a cohesive and enriching music streaming experience. Whether exploring curated playlists or diving into high-resolution tracks, the AirLens ensures a harmonious connection within the Roon environment.

2. Spotify Connect, DLNA Ready, Tidal Connect: A Triad of Streaming Options: The AirLens extends its compatibility beyond Roon, catering to a diverse audience of streaming enthusiasts. With support for Spotify Connect, DLNA Ready functionality, and seamless integration with Tidal Connect, the section explores how the streamer opens doors to many streaming platforms. Audiophiles can enjoy their favorite playlists, discover new artists, and access high-fidelity audio across different streaming services, offering flexibility and choice in their music consumption.

3. DAC Compatibility: Bridging the Gap Across Devices: Highlighting its inclusive nature, this section sheds light on the AirLens’ compatibility with a wide array of DACs. Whether paired with PS Audio’s DAC lineup or other high-end digital-to-analog converters, the AirLens is a versatile bridge, ensuring a smooth and optimized connection. The review explores the streamer’s adaptability to various DAC configurations, emphasizing its role as a unifying element in diverse audiophile setups.

In essence, “Versatility in Streaming and Compatibility” celebrates the AirLens not just as a standalone streaming solution but as a conductor of connectivity, harmonizing with different streaming platforms and seamlessly integrating with a spectrum of DACs to create a harmonious experience for audiophiles.

Design and Build: Aesthetics and Practicality:

In high-end audio, the PS Audio AirLens stands as a technological marvel and a testament to meticulous design and thoughtful construction. This section unveils the aesthetic prowess and practical ingenuity that define the AirLens, elevating it beyond a mere streaming device to a piece of audio art.

1. Signature PS Audio Aesthetics: Timeless Elegance in Form: With a design language that echoes the legacy of PS Audio, AirLens presents a visual symphony. The section explores the aesthetic elements that make the AirLens instantly recognizable, from its rounded corners to the reflective black wooden cover. The compact dimensions, measuring 25.4 centimeters in width, contribute to its unobtrusive yet impactful presence in any audiophile setup. The review delves into how the AirLens seamlessly integrates into the PS Audio family, embodying the brand’s commitment to timeless elegance.

2. Practical Elements: DIP Switches and LED Indicators: Beyond its aesthetic appeal, AirLens excels in practical design elements that enhance user customization and experience. Including DIP switches on the bottom of the device becomes a focal point, allowing users to fine-tune settings for optimal performance. The significance of LED indicators is explored, emphasizing their role in providing essential feedback on the device’s status. From indicating power status to network connectivity, these practical elements contribute to a user-friendly and intuitive interaction with the AirLens.

3. Thoughtful Craftsmanship: Housing and Ergonomics: This section delves into the meticulous craftsmanship of the AirLens’ housing. The review explores how the compact and well-crafted structure contributes to its aesthetic appeal and serves practical purposes. The ergonomic placement of the DIP switches, the visibility of LED indicators, and the overall user-friendly design reflect a thoughtful approach to craftsmanship. The review encapsulates how the AirLens exemplifies the marriage of aesthetics and functionality in high-end audio.

In summary, “Design and Build: Aesthetic Mastery and Practical Ingenuity” celebrates the AirLens as a visual and tactile masterpiece, seamlessly blending into the PS Audio design ethos while incorporating practical elements that enhance user interaction and customization. The result is a streaming device that sounds exceptional and enriches the audiophile’s space with timeless elegance.

Connectivity and Functionality: Bridging Audiophile Aspirations with Technological Finesse

The PS Audio AirLens not only pushes the boundaries of sonic excellence but also redefines the landscape of connectivity and functionality in high-end audio. This section explores how the AirLens becomes a versatile hub, seamlessly integrating into audiophile setups while offering a spectrum of connectivity options and cutting-edge functionality.

1. Connectivity Hub: Wired and Wireless Versatility: At the heart of AirLens’ connectivity prowess lies its ability to effortlessly bridge the gap between traditional wired connections and modern wireless convenience. The section unravels the device’s dual nature, catering to audiophiles who appreciate the reliability of wired connections and those who seek the flexibility of wireless setups. Whether through Ethernet or WiFi, the AirLens ensures a stable and high-quality connection, adapting to the diverse preferences of audiophiles.

2. Interface Harmony: Streaming Platforms and Compatibility: The AirLens is a harmonious interface between audiophiles and their preferred streaming platforms. This section delves into its compatibility with various streaming services, from the Roon Ready functionality to Spotify Connect, DLNA Ready, and Tidal Connect. The review explores how the AirLens seamlessly integrates into audiophiles’ streaming ecosystems, providing a unified and user-friendly interface for accessing diverse music libraries and platforms.

3. Audiophile-Friendly Connectivity: Tailoring to DAC Configurations: Beyond mainstream compatibility, the section explores how the AirLens caters to the discerning needs of audiophiles with varied DAC configurations. Whether through coaxial (RCA) or I2S (via HDMI), the AirLens ensures audiophile-grade connectivity. The review dissects how this adaptability makes the AirLens an attractive choice for a broad spectrum of audiophiles, accommodating different setups without compromising audio quality.

4. Cutting-Edge Functionality: Future-Ready Features: The AirLens doesn’t just meet current audiophile expectations; it anticipates future needs with cutting-edge functionality. The review examines how AirLens positions itself as a forward-looking device, embracing emerging technologies and ensuring its relevance in the ever-evolving landscape of high-end audio. Whether it’s the support for high-resolution PCM up to 384kHz or DSD up to 256 (4X) in DoP or native, the AirLens stands as a beacon of technological finesse.

In conclusion, “Connectivity and Functionality: Bridging Audiophile Aspirations with Technological Finesse” celebrates AirLens as a connectivity powerhouse, seamlessly blending the traditional and the modern while anticipating the future needs of audiophiles. Its versatility and cutting-edge features make it not just a streaming device but a cornerstone in the audiophile’s quest for uncompromised audio excellence.

Usability and Unique Functions: Elevating Audiophile Experience through Intuitive Design and Innovative Features

The PS Audio AirLens goes beyond being a mere audio streaming device; it embodies user-centric design and pioneering functionalities, redefining how audiophiles interact with their music. This section delves into the usability aspects and unique functions that set the AirLens apart, making it a user-friendly and technologically advanced companion in the pursuit of audio excellence.

1. Effortless Integration: Setting Up the Trio with Ease: Usability begins with simplicity, and AirLens excels in providing an effortless integration experience. This section explores how the setup process of the AirLens, coupled with the compatible DAC and audio system, is designed for user convenience. Whether connecting through Ethernet or WiFi, the AirLens streamlines the initial configuration, ensuring that audiophiles can focus more on enjoying their music and less on technical intricacies.

2. Customization Reimagined: Ayers Five Wireless in Your Palette: One of the standout features that define the AirLens is its approach to customization. This section unravels the unique function of the AirLens, particularly the Ayers Five Wireless model. From choosing the color palette to tailoring the sonic characteristics through customization options, the AirLens empowers audiophiles to make the streaming experience personalized. The review explores how this level of customization redefines the relationship between the audiophile and their audio equipment.

3. Cutting-Edge Technology: Qualcomm’s DDFA Amplification: The AirLens doesn’t just focus on aesthetics and user-friendliness; it incorporates cutting-edge technology to enhance audio performance. This section delves into the unique function of Qualcomm’s DDFA (Direct Digital Feedback Amplification) technology, which powers the AirLens. The review highlights AirLens’ commitment to delivering both usability and an unparalleled listening experience by exploring how this technology contributes to audio accuracy, clarity, and efficiency.

4. The Connectivity Hub: HD10 Stream Connect: Connectivity is not just a means to an end; it’s a defining feature of the AirLens. This section explores the unique function of the HD10 Stream Connect, unraveling how it serves as the central hub for diverse inputs – from digital to wireless to analog. The review dissects how this connectivity hub enhances the user experience, providing flexibility and ensuring that the AirLens seamlessly integrates into any audiophile’s setup.

5. Fine-Tuning Possibilities: Power Cables and Analog Inputs: Usability extends beyond initial setup to ongoing fine-tuning, and the AirLens caters to audiophiles who seek perfection. This section explores the unique function of the AirLens in accommodating power cables and analog inputs, allowing users to refine their audio setup further. The review examines how these possibilities empower audiophiles to optimize their listening environment continuously.

In conclusion, “Usability and Unique Functions: Elevating Audiophile Experience through Intuitive Design and Innovative Features” celebrates the AirLens as more than a streaming device; it’s a companion that understands the audiophile’s desire for seamless integration, personalized aesthetics, and cutting-edge technology. Through intuitive design and unique functions, the AirLens transforms the audiophile experience into a journey of both usability and sonic excellence.

Conclusion: Elevating the Audiophile Experience:

In conclusion, the PS Audio AirLens Network Streamer emerges as a transformative force in high-end audio, embodying PS Audio’s legacy of excellence. Through the meticulous integration of galvanic isolation, reclocking, and a commitment to uncompromised signal purity, the AirLens redefines the audiophile experience. It meets and exceeds expectations, delivering a sonic journey that transcends the boundaries of conventional streaming. With a harmonious blend of technical sophistication, versatile streaming options, and a visually captivating design, the AirLens stands as a testament to PS Audio’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the pursuit of audio perfection.

As audiophiles embark on a sonic adventure with the AirLens, they are not merely adopting a streaming bridge; they are embracing a new era of musical authenticity. PS Audio’s relentless pursuit of innovation and its ability to translate technical brilliance into a captivating auditory experience make the AirLens a compelling choice for those who demand nothing short of audio excellence. In the ever-evolving landscape of high-end audio, the AirLens stands as a beacon, inviting enthusiasts to explore the limitless horizons of pristine, uncompromised sound.

Why You Should Buy AirLens:

  1. A Sonic Revelation: Investing in the AirLens means indulging in an unparalleled auditory journey. With galvanic isolation, reclocking magic, and Qualcomm’s DDFA amplification, it promises an audio experience free from noise, jitter, and interference. For audiophiles seeking sonic perfection, the AirLens is a revelation that elevates streaming to new heights.
  2. Versatility Unleashed: The AirLens isn’t just a streaming device; it’s a versatile hub compatible with Roon, Spotify Connect, DLNA, Tidal Connect, and more. Its adaptability to various DAC configurations makes it a compelling choice for those with diverse audio setups. If you value flexibility in streaming options, the AirLens is your gateway to a world of possibilities.
  3. Customization at Your Fingertips: The Ayers Five Wireless model redefines personalization. Choose your color palette and tailor the sonic characteristics to match your preferences. For audiophiles who want more than a one-size-fits-all solution, the AirLens offers a unique customization experience that resonates with individual tastes.
  4. Cutting-Edge Technology: Powered by Qualcomm’s DDFA amplification, the AirLens doesn’t compromise on technology. It incorporates the latest advancements for precise, clear, and efficient audio reproduction. If you’re drawn to state-of-the-art technology that sets new standards, the AirLens deserves a spot in your audio arsenal.

Why You Might Hesitate:

  1. Investment Consideration: The AirLens, with its advanced features and cutting-edge technology, comes with a price tag that reflects its audiophile pedigree. For those on a budget or seeking a more economical streaming solution, the AirLens might be perceived as a substantial investment.
  2. Learning Curve: While the AirLens aims for user-friendliness, its rich feature set might pose a slight learning curve for those new to high-end audio setups. If you prefer a straightforward plug-and-play experience without much customization, the extensive features of the AirLens might be more than you need.
  3. Compatibility Check: While versatile, the AirLens might not be universally compatible with all DACs. Before purchasing, ensuring that your existing audio setup aligns with the AirLens requirements is essential. For users with non-compatible DACs, the AirLens might not seamlessly integrate into their systems.

In conclusion, investing in the AirLens hinges on your audiophile priorities. If you seek an uncompromised audio experience, versatile streaming options, and a touch of personalization, the AirLens emerges as a compelling choice. However, careful consideration is advised if budget constraints, a preference for simplicity, or compatibility concerns are paramount. The AirLens is more than a purchase; it’s a commitment to an elevated audio journey, and whether it’s the right fit depends on your unique audiophile aspirations.