Web exclusive: Melco N100 networked music server

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Music servers and computer audio
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Melco N100
Web exclusive: Melco N100 networked music server

I have been spoiled here in that I am a user of the Melco N10 and its separate power supply. The N100 brings that power supply in the same box and uses an external 12V power supply to drive that (upgrades are possible, and welcomed). This is very well isolated, but an order of magnitude below the power fed to the N10, and doesn’t include some of the powerful vibration isolation systems deployed in the two-boxer. That being said, the N10 is 3.75x the cost of the N100 and doesn’t deliver 3.75x the performance unless you are really pushing the envelope of audio performance elsewhere in your system. In the context where a £1,800 music library is wholly appropriate, the Melco N100 is a little miracle.

First, I don’t know how Melco managed it, but that little 2TB spinning drive in the N100 is whisper-quiet in use. Second, it completely nailed the sound of ‘Figure’ by Vök [Netwerk] ripped to the N100 through the D100, giving it that slick Portishead-meets-the-1980s vibe. This was quad-useful, as I could stream it from Tidal, play it from the N100, play it through UPnP from my Naim Uniti Core, and even play it from the original disc, all into the inputs of the Hegel H390. I could also compare N10 and N100, although for sake of trying not to inject too many conflicting shared sources, I did this through an A-B swap. The difference between them through this level of DAC and amplifier were more ‘how do you take your coffee’ than blowing things out of the water. If anything, the slightly compressed and boppy mix benefitted the N100 over its rivals; the even darker, quieter, stiller backgrounds of the N10 are not relevant here and while the Naim made a good attempt at the sound, the N10’s ability to cut through the compression benefitted greatly. Moving from this to Andras Schiff playing Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas [Vol VI, ECM] and the N10 showed where the money was spent in sonic terms in terms of tone and air around the piano, but the N100 was a close second. Flipping from track to track it was pretty clear the Melco products edged ahead, and so much of the N10’s DNA made it to the N100 too.

I found the N100 worked best as a streamer in its own right, feeding a USB DAC. The app (iOS only) is a quick and intuitive controller of the Melco product and, through that, the outside world. If you already have a streamer, the Melco makes for a fine server in its own right too. The Melco’s software architecture is primarily Twonky based (there is a Minimserver port) and every server system has its detractors, but in use its stable, easy to navigate, stable, intuitive (small learning curve hurdle, but no biggie unless you come from something more authoritarian in approach), stable, and most of all stable. The stable thing is worth mentioning several times, although system robustness fortunately now seems to be more of a universal ideal than a guideline worth forgetting.

A word about the D100 drive. It’s a potent device in its own right, and very probably the best standalone ripping transport you can get at the moment. Yes, it’s geared up for coping with more than just CD (but, sadly, not SACD), but even as a ripping device for CD alone, it’s a star. While I have railed against the whole ‘Mac + DAC’ movement in favour of more dedicated solutions, pragmatism has to reign supreme and there are a whole lot of people who use computers as front-ends. And if more of them used the D100 as their USB drive, they might begin to realise just how much more there is to offer in good separates audio. I think in most cases it will be used with Melco systems, however, and it’s a perfect match.

It sounds a little odd, but a device like the Melco is hard to categorise. It’s an increasingly powerful music library in its own right, especially when used with Melco’s own app, but effectively acts as a UPnP server, or even just a high-performance storage device if you want to ‘roll your own’ using something like Roon. In a way it makes it a bit like a butler in an English costume drama (without all the underlying and unresolved sexual tension, or the Jeeves-like dry wit); it does the job almost invisibly, effortlessly, and perfectly. And it’s built like a tank, too!

SPECIFICATIONS: 

Type: Music server with HDD storage
Storage: 2TB
Network connection: RJ45 Ethernet
Digital Outputs: RJ45 Ethernet, USB
Back up connection: USB
Formats supported (player): DSF, DFF, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, AAC
Formats supported (server): DSF, DFF, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, MP3, WMA, OGG, LPCM 
Sample rates: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4KHz. 192kHz, 384KHz , 2.8MHz, 5.6 MHz, 11.3 MHz
Bit depths: 1bit, 16bit, 24bit, 32bit
Streaming services supported: Qobuz, Tidal
User Interface: Melco control application
Other Features: UPnP server, DLNA device compatible, Roon Core
Accessories: Quick Start Guide, USB2.0 cable, Category 6 Ethernet cable, AC adapter
Dimensions (HxWxD): 61 x 215 x 269mm plus inline PSU
Weight: server 3kg

PRICE: 

£1,799

MANUFACTURER: 

Melco Audio

melco-audio-masters.com

DISTRIBUTOR:

ADMM

Tel: +44(0)1252 784525
 

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