The world of streaming seems to be dominated by two systems: Sonos and ROON. Sonos for those who think “good is good enough” and ROON for the die-hard audiophiles. Appearances are deceiving, however. There are plenty of enthusiasts who just use Tidal connect, stream with Spotify or very consciously choose other systems. Think of Diretta, the manufacturer’s own application (dCS, NAIM, Linn, etc) or Aurender. A Korean brand that has developed a complete ecosystem. We test the N150, a “streaming bridge” with internal storage and USB audio out.
Before we start with the Aurender, a quick word about our new reference system, for it is finished with the arrival of the TAD Evolution 2 speakers. So now the system consists of a Pass Labs pre- and power amplifier, the Alpha Audio PC with the Mutec MC3+ as streaming bridge and a Grimm UC1 and Sonnet Pasithea DAC.
That’s a pretty radical upgrade, since practically everything has been swapped out in comparison with the precvious system. Still, this system is also built with the goal of a neutral sound.
The Aurender N150 – supplied by More Music – is the first component we review in this set-up. That always takes some getting used to, but fortunately we have a baseline: the Alpha Audio PC with Mutec MC3+. We know it well and can also put it next to the N150, since they are about the same price. The Alpha PC comes in around 4000 euros with power supplies and the Mutec. The N150 is around 3600 Euros. So the PC is a fraction more expensive.
The power of Aurender is in the Ecosystem. Everything about Aurender works beautifully together. In fact you have a few categories: an endpoint (‘bridge’) that can receive a stream and send it out digitally. Then there are players with dac and we also see devices with a ‘server function’. Remarkably, there are also models that can rip cd’s. So there is something for everyone. And a system that is beautifully expandable.
Aurender has its own system and likes to keep control over it. So don’t expect ROON integration. Yes, Airplay works, but not RAAT, which means it’s not possible to stream “lossless” via ROON. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, as we estimate that people who use an Aurender are consciously choosing the Aurender ecosystem and therefore not concerned with ROON.
The Aurender App
If you choose to have your own system, it does make sense to develop a good app. And fortunately Aurender has an excellent app. It works particularly well on the iPad. We don’t have one at the office, but we have seen and used the app on the iPad regularly. It also works fine on an Android phone, but especially a larger screen makes it more convenient. On a phone it is sometimes a bit fiddly. We have understood from the importer that an Android version is coming for the tablet. Then landscape will also be possible.
In the app you can control the entire player. It would be even more chic if this could also be done via a web-app (for example by logging in to the ip-address of the player).
A mode that we can heartily recommend is Critical Listening Mode. Without a doubt, this is audible. We hear more calmness and more richness in the sound. Very special.
In the standard view you can see at the top all the relevant main filters: Song, Artist, Album, Genre, Composer, Conductor, Folder. We sometimes get the question whether “folder-view” is possible (with ROON). With Aurender it is. And yes: that’s nice! We have everything neatly organized by genre / artist / album. So via Folderview we can find things quickly. The only thing we as reviewers miss in Folderview on an added NAS location, is that we can immediately play an entire album. This is not possible without importing this entire location into the Aurender library. As a reviewer less convenient, but as a home user a matter of starting the import once. Handy to know perhaps.
Navigation is fast and easy. Starting songs and albums is also fast and snappy. In the app we find support for Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify connect. Aurender will also support Vtuner after an update. Special is that the app has a remote assistance function. So if something goes wrong with the player, you can get help pretty quickly without the need for a dealer to come on site.
The Aurender N150
So the new N150 sells for just under 3600 euros. That’s quite a sum, but in ‘Aurenderland‘ that’s very reasonable. The only player with an even lower price tag is the N100H. It too only has USB audio out. This was a deliberate choice by Aurender; most modern dacs have a USB input and it keeps the costs down. Incidentally, there is a UT100 and UC100 adapter to convert USB to optical or coaxial, if necessary. Of course the USB output is well implemented in this case. Aurender has made every effort to make the output signal as clean as possible. As with other models that have a coaxial, optical or AES output.
The N150 is compact device (half din). On the front the familiar four buttons, a 3-inch amoled display and on the far left an on / off button in a nice square with a led strip around it. It looks sleek and chic. The 3-inch amoled display is obviously not a full-color type with artwork, but it is very easy to read (in critical listening mode it is off) and gives all the info you need. On the back, apart from the power connector, we see an Ethernet port, 2 x USB storage and 1 x usb audio. There is also extra slot for a 2.5-inch ssd or hdd.