Fidata HFAS1-XS20U Solid‑state music server with SSD storage

Music servers and computer audio
IO Data Fidata HFAS1-XS20U

We have become lazy and the Fidata will not tolerate such slackness! Just as a record player doesn’t double up as a tape recorder, so the Fidata doesn’t do online streaming. As most systems with a music server will include a Media Renderer that will pull such services together, I think the Fidata’s ‘do one thing brilliantly’ approach is better than a ‘Jack of All Trades’ way of doing things. 

This server is therefore dedicated to delivering your own library and to this end it’s possible to attach a disc drive and either play or rip CDs to the Fidata (via the lone USB port) which uses the Gracenote library to gather metadata. Various setting options allow the colour and brightness of the indicator light to be changed, auto off time to be anything from 20 minutes to never, and even to use DMR or OpenHome renderer options within the Twonky 7 software that runs the server. It’s also possible to choose automatic switching between DSD direct and DoP (DSD over PCM) to suit the attached DAC which is a rare feature.

In the system with the USB output connected to the rather good Auralic Vega G2.1 DAC/streamer the Fidata sounded as refined as it looks, perhaps more so. I don’t mean smooth and a little turgid in the Japanese electronics style that many will have encountered, I mean extremely low noise which allows for very high resolution with loads of detail presented in a coherent, engaging fashion. I’m not generally a fan of USB to DAC server connections and prefer to put a streamer in between (or streamer with on-board DAC) but the USB output on the Fidata sounds better than most and has the ability to deliver dynamics and musical detail in a musical fashion that had me hooked almost from the off. The drives were rammed with audiophile albums on the test sample and there were some gems in among them including Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue [Blue Note] only the track ‘Chitlins Con Carne’ was in the folder but it revealed the inspired nature of his guitar playing by delivering its bright tone over an understated groove from bass and percussion. The sound was as smooth and taut as you could ask for. I put a few of my own tracks on the drive to get a better handle on things and was impressed with the results produced, each one had oodles of character so Conjure’s ‘Jes Grew’ [Music For The Texts Of Ishmael Reed, American Clavé] was a little forward as expected but, in terms of timing, handled rather better than usual. This piece can easily sound messy because there’s so much going on but the Fidata sent it down the line in extremely well sorted fashion, allowing the quality of musicianship and composition to be easily appreciated.

I really like the tone of the mids and highs that this server provides, it has a seamlessness to it that makes other digital sources seem a little dry and coarse, you could call it an analogue smoothness but it’s not quite like that, if anything noise is better suppressed than with many analogue sources. Thankfully this is not achieved at the expense of the bass, which is powerful and muscular with the right material, one track eliciting the old notion of an iron fist in a velvet glove so solid and driven was the bass line. You expect Japanese electronics to do finesse but bottom-end grunt is a real bonus.

Just to get a better idea of mid and treble performance I put some chamber music on, Haydn as it happens, and was immediately seduced by the refined and melodic presentation. It’s not as gritty as some but delivers plenty of texture with a strong sense of vivacity from the original instruments being played. The piece got really spirited toward the end, so much so that some air baton was required, a sure sign of high engagement power in my books.

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