"Divide and...divide!" - that's the commandment most High End hardware manufacturers now stick to. And that's what explains the tendency for simple functions to be distributed to individual devices, which has long prevailed in the world of high-end audio.
As the cost and class increase, the components are literally broken up into separate components: instead of a single amplifier - a pre and a power unit, instead of a CD player - transport and DAC, and then there is a separate clock for digital devices and separate power supply units for everything. And of course, it is obligatory (!) for each component separate vibration-decoupling legs (3-4 pieces each) and at least one mains conditioner for the whole company, but better 2-3: separately for an amplifier, a low-power analogue and a number. And so on and so forth. Beech.
From all this we can draw only one conclusion: any integrated solution is evil. However, the device in question, although it combines a lot of different functions, has not been declared an absolute evil, and is not even devoted to anathema by audiophiles-orthodoxes. Moreover, it has perfectly taken root both in modern minimalistic setapas, and in quite classic systems with separate components.
Aurender A10 - This is a music server, a network audio player with analogue and digital outputs, as well as some kind of DAC and preamplifier. According to audiophile standards, this is a pure water combine, the very type of device "that cannot be perfect by definition..." The feature of the A10 model (as well as other Aurender devices with literal A) is the presence of a built-in DAC and analogue outputs. All other devices have a built-in DAC. Aurender It remains to add a power unit with speakers or a pair of active monitors - and the stereo system is ready.
If you consider the device in terms of price positioning, it is in the middle of the list in the manufacturer's lineup. There are models twice cheaper, and the flagships cost three or four times more expensive. If you consider the price tag in absolute terms, then we are certainly looking at the High End device, and giving an estimate of one or another solution, you can safely pick on every little thing.
However, it's not easy to get nasty and find any imperfections, so it's just a matter of getting to know each other. The meeting starts, as it should be, with an external inspection. This is a moment of total delight for technicians, aesthetes and perfectionists alike. The device is available in black and silver aluminium cases. And, unlike the established tradition to consider black as the main color, in promotional materials and on the manufacturer's website the main emphasis is on silver aluminium, which involuntarily causes direct associations with Apple laptops and computers. And not only in the material of the corpus. Aurender your MacBook and everything will become more than obvious.
The developers are equally pleased with the minimalism and thoughtfulness in the organization of the front panel. While the main control device of such a complex device is inevitably a smartphone or tablet, the developers have brought to it a part of the controls: exactly in the quantity and quality in which they may be needed. Plus, everything is exceptionally aesthetically pleasing. The display has several modes of operation, among which there is a variant with a large, well readable from afar, track name, as well as a favorite by many "analog" level arrow indicator.
The fit of the body parts is perfect: the screws recessed into the top cover do not look like foreign elements, do not stick out and are perfectly submerged to the same depth. It feels like there is a special person in production who controls this parameter before the release of each unit. One only has to remember (and forget forever) the High End of the old school. You can not look at its gaps and inconsistencies without tears and spells like: "it's a manual assembly!" or "you have to listen to the technique, not look!
From unobvious observations, I note that the size of the case is surprisingly close to the standard rack size of 1U, which means that if necessary, the device can be placed on a shelf in a standard cabinet. Fully remote control allows you to do this without any technical problems, although hiding such beauty is certainly barbaric.
Having experienced all the pleasures that a perfectionist can get from knowing a perfectly designed and flawlessly crafted machine, you can safely look inside, and it will help us greatly in answering the main question: how does this "combine harvester" manage to meet the most stringent quality criteria?
Basic Function A10 models - However, providing the possibility to play music from external USB drives, home NAS, as well as from the online service Tidal (with full MQA decoding), the developers decided to combine the audio player and the server in one case. 4TB hard disk is available for placement of the phono library.
But why combine functionality in such a way? Because a server, in terms of sound, is a dirty business, because any hard drive generates a lot of interference and vibration during operation, which is completely impossible to get rid of. The ideal way to play is to read a file from the solid-state memory integrated into a network player module without any involvement of the hard drive. Even network streaming and the use of external drives is essentially a compromise. Listening to music from a home server or online.
The developers of aurender understood all these problems very well. They found the solution by combining two radically opposite approaches. Store the files inside the device on the hard drive to avoid all sorts of problems with external transfer of data to the player, but play files exclusively from a solid state drive with 100 % of buffered content. This allows you to completely turn off the hard drive when the music is playing.
Having solved the problem of combining server and player in one case, the developers had to cope with one more task: to make the player correspond to the High End class, that is, it was not just good, but uncompromisingly good.
And it's all based on... Separation of function blocks. Yeah, yeah, that's it! It's only on the outside. Aurender A10 If you look inside, you will see two separate devices: between the computer part of the server/player and the DAC there is a solid partition with only a few holes for wires. Literally everything is divided, even the power supplies. They are all linear, by the way, and for each functional block there is a separate toroidal transformer.
In the part of the case dedicated to audio, the circuit is divided into four separate boards: the power supply, the digital part and two boards of analog outputs of the left and right channels. Each channel has a completely symmetrical circuitry, starting with two DAC chips, switched in differential mode, one per channel, and two independent power transformers, ending with the output connectors. Thus, it is possible to minimize the impact of all possible interference and maximize the sound quality.
in addition to this, the digital part implements the scheme of jitter suppression, assembled on a high-precision generator and programmable fpga matrices, reducing the level of time errors to an extremely small value of 100 femtoseconds. this is supplemented by their own means of jitter suppression, available in the chips of studs ak4490 from ak4490. the chips themselves do not need a special representation: the model is not the newest, but has already proved its worth. with all this, it is still recognized as the best by some of the specialists, or at least - the music itself.
Despite the fact that the model Aurender A10 To connect the external DAC, a USB 2.0 port with a special, especially clean power bus is used. It eliminates the interference of the connected external DAC, and also has protection against electrical noise that it can generate in response. The second interface that extends the capabilities of the device, in my opinion, is the most interesting is the optical input that allows the Aurender A10 itself to be used as a DAC. To explain its existence my
Imagine an extremely minimalist set-up based on Aurender A10Stylish, fashionable, modern, but something is missing, isn't it? Of course, above all this there will most likely be a TV, here home AV system will become 100 % self-sufficient and complete. To make friends with one another will help the same optical input available at the Aurender A10 However, those who prefer to have quality sound at home and are not ready to clutter up the living room with stacks of components, will not see anything wrong with it. And will be 100 % right. After all, the optics gives a galvanic isolation and the quality of music playback this "vicious connection" with the TV will not affect, but the convenience and conciseness of home setapa clearly add.
The developers have taken an extremely responsible approach to creating powerful and functional software Aurender Conductor, which is installed in the full version on Apple tablets or in the Lite version on Android smartphones. This can be judged by the quality of graphic design of the interface, its informative value and convenience of such auxiliary functions as sorting or search.
Tidal and Qobuz streaming services are already integrated into the application, so there is no need to put separate applications on the gadget or the device.
The basic principle is to form playlists, where you need to add tracks or entire albums that you plan to listen to. This approach allows you to seamlessly combine files stored on different media and music from streaming services into one list. This combination of home phono library with a bottomless stock of songs available online, works so seamlessly that it causes rapid addiction and threatens complete frustration in the event of a sudden Internet blackout.
And the deadliest argument of our time: Aurender Conductor doesn't slow down, glitch, lose the device, forget the settings and fly out at the most unexpected moment. In a word, the developers really tried to make playback of files as convenient as possible from the user's point of view.
It's time to ask the main question: what about the sound? First of all - very musical and noble. The sound turned out to be really thoroughbred, aged, rich in timbres and microdetails, with a wide and precisely traced sound stage, dynamic, but comfortable, relief, but not sharp. Aurender A10 is surprisingly respectful, without a shadow of snobbism applies to any musical material. Giving to feel the difference between CD quality, Hi-Res PCM format and DSD, it does not seek to emphasize the shortcomings, emphasizing the merits and artistic value of music.
The integrity and expressiveness of the sound that characterizes all AKM DACs is fully present, but when it comes to purity, focus and detail, Aurender developers seem to have reached the limits of this chip, the ability to trace every guitar in the most twisted Dream Theater compositions, to hear every breath of the king of rock and roll in a fascinatingly languid Fever, or to distinguish between the touch of strings in a recording by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - is expensive! In the ability to reveal the subtleties and details of a recording, it is expensive!
Of course, it would be wrong to say that aurender a10 is the limit of perfection that cannot be surpassed. At least the owners of older models of aurender, as well as other users of network players and trunks of high end class, would disagree with this. But still a10 is not so far from this definition, and it is the same device that will live in the system for a very long time. firstly, because the ratio of financial costs and quality growth at any upgrade will cause serious internal torments. and secondly, the upgrade of such system is more reasonable still pro. Aurender A10.
And the manufacturer, for its part, does everything to ensure that any Aurender will serve long and trouble-free, as evidenced by the high quality of components, perfect assembly, regular software updates and even the possibility of remote administration of the device by the manufacturer's specialists via the Internet.
On that optimistic note, it's time to end the story of how a digital combine harvester with a server inside broke the system and became a reference high end player. But I can't help stating the last important fact. Who do you think did all this? Americans with their maximalism, manifested in the most unexpected hi-tech and high end solutions? Warm, but no. The British, who spent decades improving hi-fi culture and a unique sound school? No! Or maybe they're Japanese audio perfectionists? Or practical Germans? It's all past! The system broke the co...
The world of quality sound is definitely changing. It's changing for the better.
The author of the review: Maxim Naumov