CES: Auraliti's Fascinating PK100 High Resolution File Player

Music servers and computer audio
Auraliti PK100
CES: Auraliti's Fascinating PK100 High Resolution File Player

My intuition is that the Auraliti PK100 player would be one of the more significant products of the audio part of CES if it were marketed by a major manufacturer. Anyone who has heard high-res 176.4khz and 192khz digital files is likely to testify that the sound takes a small but very very important step in the direction of naturalness. It is the kind of experience where it is hard to go back to conventional red book (44.1khz) files conventionally decoded (Meridian's 808.2 and new 808.3 produce a similar effect, as may other minimum phase d/a converters). But there isn't a huge catalog of high res files, even though Reference Recordings, Chesky and several other labels have growing offerings.

The Auraliti PK100 is therefore significant in my mind because it decodes high-res files and costs $899. At that price, many people could buy a PK100 to see if high res floats their boats the way it does mine (and many others). The PK100 provides everything you need except storage (assuming you have a home network and an iPod).

Here's basically how it works. You download files or transfer them from your CD collection to an external USB hard disk or USB key. Note that 1TB of USB hard drive costs about $149 or less. Then you plug the hard drive into the PK100 or access the hard drive via hardwired ethernet. The PK100 builds a catalog of your files. A fee app gets installed on your iPod Touch or iPhone.Via Wi-Fi, the iPod gives you remote control over the catalog, so you can play songs. The PK100 is plugged into your preamp/amp and the PK100 does D/A conversion of the files.

You wouldn't be throwing your hard earned dollars away either, if you don't fall in love with high-res. That's because the PK100 can be used primarily as an easy to use access device for digital files. It can output to any D/A converter if you decide the built-in decoder isn't good enough, but you still like the iPod-based user interface and the ease of working with external and expandable mass storage.

Auraliti's technology may appear in other devices, so if you're uncomfortable buying directly from a start-up, you may have other choices. On the other hand, at $899, you might decide the risk is low to see what's up beyond standard CD. There are cheaper ways to get high-res, but I haven't seen one that integrates with your audio system so well.

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