The N10 is sub-divided into two interlinked components: the head unit with built-in storage and the matching power supply. Both are designed to work in a 215mm wide form factor, and the head unit has both newly designed internal electronics hardware and new operating software compared to the N1 models.
In both chassis, the case is made from solid aluminium with matching end cheeks to aid mechanical integrity and freedom from vibration. It also looks pretty good! Beneath that skin is a more complex and rigid internal steel chassis.
The front panel of the head unit has an OLED display and four control buttons. The operating system is configured to be fully navigable through these four buttons, from basic set-up functions like language and time zone options to advanced customisation of player and interface. The OLED walks you through these functions, displaying the track name and data format when in play mode.
Any connected external devices are also confirmed on the OLED. This is a vital function, as the N10 head unit is designed to be a USB and Ethernet hub. The front panel USB port is convenient for connecting either USB drives or USB optical drive to import files or directly play, and playing directly from CD using a USB CD loader such as Melco’s own D100, or playing directly from a USB drive; the OLED and buttons give full browse and navigation.
The rear panel has two additional USB ports which allow for more permanent connection of a USB CD loader, or USB HDD for music import or play. There is also an expansion USB port, allowing the internal hard drive to be expanded, either using a generic USB hard drive or the dedicated E100 expansion drive to increase capacity of the N10 without having to futz about with additional settings.
There are also two Ethernet ports. The first is a dedicated Player port that connects directly to a network player or streamer for optimum sound quality. The second Ethernet port accesses the N10’s ‘higher functions’: music transfer, control of the N10 local player from a control App, and for accessing online streaming music services, activating direct music downloads, and firmware updates.
The Head unit contains a small form factor (laptop sized) HDD, specially selected for sonic performance. The HDD is supported on Melco’s HS-S2 - Highly Stable Storage System – to limit the influence of vibration. The HDD is mounted on a heavy stainless steel plate for damping and heat-sinking, and there is additional 3mm plate to complete the acoustic isolation. Finally, a newly designed power management system in the head unit ensures stable and reliable operation.
The power supply is housed in a similar case to the head unit (but without the OLED panel) and sits on three isolating feet from TAOC. This power supply features an extensively filtered toroidal transformer (as opposed to switch mode PSUs in many servers). This connects to the main unit by multi-way cable with Neutrik connectors.