Innuos Statement music server

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Music servers and computer audio
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Innuos ZENith Statement

Listening commenced with the Statement sending signal via USB to an iFi Pro iDSD DAC on a Vertere HB cable, it proved a highly rewarding experience thanks to the incredible sense of space that the server manages to find in so many recordings. Not all of them of course but Nils Frahm’s ‘Momentum’ [All Melody, Erased Tapes] had plenty around the deep, dark textures of this beautifully rich piece of music. What was also rather nice was the undulating bass pulse that gently underpins the track; this had shape and depth like I haven’t encountered before, not even on vinyl. This server is particularly good at unfolding everything it plays; the Zenith SE seemed to have vanishing noise levels and phenomenal resolution, but this ups the ante by further opening up each track and placing the music in the room. Dynamics as well as imaging benefit from this, presumably because the quieter sounds are clearer and the dynamic range has been expanded at this end of the scale. Tape hiss was always the scourge of analogue recordings, but for some reason it makes things sound more real when it turns up on digital releases. Yussef Kammal’s Black Focus[Brownswood] is a case in point. I had always presumed it to be a digital recording, but the appearance of tape hiss via the Statement proved otherwise, ultimately revealing why it’s such an appealing recording.

I’m still fairly confident that Radiohead’s Moon Shaped Pool[XL] was captured bit by bit, but the sheer amount of work that went into its creation became all the more apparent here. There are layers underneath the ones you can usually hear, and sounds that extend way outside the bounds of the loudspeakers. It’s as if every one of the multi tracks can be individually accessed yet the music as a whole coalesces to create a powerful overall effect. I love the way the Statement reveals the tension in ‘Full Stop’ even when it’s played at a sensible level; all those micro dynamics and nuances come out to reveal precisely how neurotic Thom Yorke and Co. have become since the exuberance of ‘Creep’.

Being a fan of Ethernet rather than USB connections I felt the need to hook the Innuos up to a streamer, an AURALiC ARIES G2 to be precise... and it is precise. This brought out greater depth of analysis, exposing even more of the minutiae that goes into the production of a Radiohead album. It also made it clear that the low-level resolution of the Statement is in another league to the Zenith SE – you really don’t know how much is going on in the shadows without a server of this calibre. 

Spinning an old favourite in Steely Dan’s ‘Show Biz Kids’ [Countdown to Ecstasy, ABC Dunhill] revealed a remarkable amount of three-dimensional space in the recording. Again the layers were peeled apart and the quality of composition, playing, and syncopation made all the more palpable. Then came the guitar solo on ‘My Old School’; this always sounds good, but the highs on this server are incredibly clean and open, so here it was even more breathtaking. As ever with higher resolution, the qualities of good recordings become more apparent. This happened with Patricia Barber’s ‘Subway Station #5’ [A Distortion Of Love, Antilles], an intense and dynamic track that can get chaotic with lesser sources and is hard work to enjoy. The Statement did its trick of opening it up and making space for all of the musicians to do their stuff in highly compelling style, and the beautifully open and extended treble remained clean even when the going got rough. 

At this point I thought that it would be interesting to try the Naim NDX 2 streamer/DAC that had only been in the system for a few hours. I know it’s a sin to use a Naim before it’s had a couple of weeks warm up, but deadlines aren’t always that helpful. It proved a rewarding experience thanks largely to the improved timing that was brought to the table. The balance was warmer and the bass a little thicker, but the beat was so well defined that I couldn’t help but get involved with the music especially when Bugge Wesseltoft, Dan Berglund, and Magnus Ostrom got going on their forthcoming album Reflections and Odysseys[Jazzland]. This band should obviously have been called b.w.t. in honour of its similarities to e.s.t., but they went for Rymden (must be a Scandi thing). Regardless of the name, they make some superb music that sounds absolutely stonking on the Statement. There was acoustic space as far as the walls and a soundstage that expands out from the speakers to put you in the front row. This is what living is all about. I have to admit to getting rather carried away with this combination; it mesmerised me with a whole raft of great albums and the notepad was forgotten. Suffice to say, if you want musical engagement and phenomenal levels of detail give it a go.

Out of interest I contrasted the Statement with the Zenith SE, something that doesn’t come naturally to control apps, but I coerced Roon into playing ball and it made it clear that the bigger, two box server is significantly more capable when it comes to a sense of three dimensionality. Put on an orchestral recordings and you can sense the shape and size of the venue and almost feel the air within it. I thought that the SE was pretty good at this already, but the Statement proves that there is more to be had. I also played quite a lot of music from Tidal which proved to be more appealing than usual, the clocking on both outputs (I used USB) clearly helps to bring out the vibrancy and air in the signal whilst reducing the slightly harsh nature of higher frequencies. Locally stored music still sounds more relaxed and spacious, but the gap has clearly been narrowed quite usefully. Given the trend toward cloud streamed listening this feature would be nice to see on Innuos’s more affordable products or as a standalone piece of kit. It helped me to discover an artist who looks like becoming a favourite. Gwenifer Raymond, a finger picking guitar player who despite not being American (she’s Welsh) plays in the American Primitive style like a demon; I have Tidal’s playlisting to thank for that find.

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