Digital technologies rule the market – most of the music is now consumed in digital format; the ergonomics and quality of such solutions have literally taken over the world. However, it is not easy for audiophiles – to organize a high-quality path, you will need a digital streamer or bridge, a digital-to-analog converter, and a preamplifier. Well, we also need to not forget about the server – the data warehouse. Well, there is also an alternative to collecting a bunch of devices at home: the multifunctional network player Aurender A100, which combines all these components in one case. We will study it now.
The Aurender A100 is the perfect choice for those looking for an all-in-one solution – there is also a cool DAC that supports the latest audio formats, two drives (HDD for music library storage and SSD for caching data during playback), and built-in streaming services (Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify Connect), and support for SMB and AirPlay, and the awesome Aurender Conductor control app, optimized for iOS and Android and tuned to work with giant databases. As a result, the model easily copes with the functions of a music server, streamer, digital-to-analog converter and pre-amplifier. Add a power amplifier and a couple of speakers, voila, the system is ready.
The digital talents of the Aurender A100 are as follows. The heart of the component is the flagship audiophile AKM AK4490 DAC from Asahi Kasei Microdevices (a couple of these are used in the more expensive Aurender A10 model that came out earlier), capable of processing audio data with parameters up to 32-bit / 768 kHz (the digital stream receiving parameters by the component itself are limited for PCM – 32 bit / 384 kHz and DSD – up to DSD64 and DSD128 in DoP mode). Aurender A100 also has a full-fledged MQA decoder on board, which is very important when using modern streaming services. The system has excellent performance characteristics (THD and noise levels are –111 dB and 0.00015%, respectively, and the dynamic range reaches 128 dB).
The switching arsenal includes a Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 port, two USB-A ports for connecting external USB drives, and an optical digital input. Outputs – analogue on RCA connectors and digital USB Class 2.0. There is no balanced analog output on XLR connectors – this is the prerogative of the older Aurender A10 model. The component is equipped with a pre-amplification module – the volume is regulated, among other things, through a rotary switch on the front panel, and control is carried out through a three-inch AMOLED display. The volume control range – 90 dB (from 0 dB in 0.5 dB steps) allows you to comfortably and accurately set the required level.
The Aurender A100 uses a proprietary precision clock generation system based on a field programmable gate array (FPGA). It is this solution that is one of the most progressive today, it allows you to minimize jitter (it is really negligible – 100 femtoseconds) and reduce noise. The model’s power supply is, of course, linear, with excess power. It uses three solid toroidal transformers, each of which serves the lines of the server, the digital filling and, in fact, the DAC. The shielding is very serious – everything is done with the highest quality.
As mentioned, two disks are installed inside the network player. The HDD drive is used as a storage system, its capacity of 2 TB is sufficient to accommodate even a large music library. The 120GB SSD acts as a system cache module, providing complete storage isolation during playback and drastically eliminating HDD interference. It’s simple – just select albums, they are instantly transferred to the cache, and the HDD goes to sleep. No noise, no interference, no loss of information – and the life of the HDD is extended. The Aurender A100 can be used both as a complete solution and only as a digital transport – for this, a shielded USB-Audio 2.0 output is provided.
In terms of ergonomics and support, the cases are also very interesting. The Aurender Conductor control application is very ergonomic and enjoyable. Of course, it’s a pity that the Aurender A100 does not have native support for the usual Roon (the choice is principled – Harry Lee from Aurender believes that this soft player leads to sound degradation and insists on our own solution), but I must say that with Aurender Conductor we accustomed to Roon didn’t have much trouble. More interestingly, the control application allows technical support of the device – a request for remote maintenance can be sent through it. And the company’s engineers will try to solve the problem remotely, via the Internet. Great service.
The design of the Aurender A100 is very stylish, the device fits easily into the interior. The build quality and the internal organization of the circuits are not satisfactory – everything is of the highest order, there is simply nothing to complain about. However, this is Aurender’s trademark. Aluminum casing plates, excellent display, large control buttons – it is pleasant to work with the device. Attention was also paid to anti-vibration protection – composite supports with a plug completely decouple the device from the surface on which it is installed.
Installing a network player is as easy as shelling pears – by setting up the network, you can immediately start streaming through Tidal, Qobuz (if you have accounts in these services), activate the Shoutcast Internet radio, or upload your music library to your hard drive (both a computer and an external drive will do, connected via USB). You can control the player in different ways – of course, the proprietary application will be the most convenient, but it’s good to control the Aurender A100 through the remote control or the front panel. In this case, for example, the volume is a little more pleasant to control – the engine is too small in the application.
We included the network player in a system with a Schiit Vidar stereo power amplifier and the familiar Martin Logan Motion 40i acoustics. The first thing that caught my eye after turning on the Aurender A100 was the scale. Yes, yes, the device is able to draw a musical canvas catchy, three-dimensional and panoramic. The enormous attention to digital circuits and radical noise reduction schemes have given their result – the sound of the device is very accurate, coherent and perfectly focused. There is no hint of digital discreteness at all, the music flows like a single river and does not tire at all.
The Aurender A100 demonstrates well-developed mids – the performers’ voices turn out to be rich in shades, soulful and allow you to achieve the effect of materialization in space. High frequencies are a special pride, they are silky, not intrusive, but, at the same time, they are perfectly balanced and informative. The so-called sound splendor, which is being hunted in the High End segment, is not fully understood here – but pay attention to the price list of the device, and once again evaluate its microdynamic characteristics.
The balance of quiet and loud tones is maintained perfectly, the sound images never mix. You can only scold the player a little for the lowest bass-especially against the background of a cool, hard and elastic lower middle. For example, the waves of sound after the intro of Time (Pink Floyd, “The Dark Side of the Moon”) could be a little more articulate, and the attack of guitar parts on Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” – fiercer. Nevertheless, this is already a quibble – the model sounds exceptionally good for its money, also copes well even with complex orchestral recordings and impresses with its charm.
The Aurender A100 is a true example of a modern digital source. High-quality assembled design, a lot of features – this “Swiss knife” for sound will please you both with the quality of its sound, and offer such a wealth of functionality that will not leave indifferent both audiophiles and novice lovers of high-quality sound.
|SSD for System and Cache||120G|
|Music Storage||2TB (2.5″ HDD)|
|Digital Audio Output||USB Audio Class 2.0|
|Digital Audio Input||SPDIF Optical up to 24-bit / 192 kHz (Optical Input will be routed to Analog Out only. Not to USB Out)|
|Other I/O||Gigabit Ethernet, USB Port x 2|
|Analog Audio Output||Unbalanced (RCA): 2Vrms|
|Volume Control||-90 dB ~ 0dB, 0.5 dB step Velocity Sensitive Operation|
|USB Audio Output||PCM: up to 32-bit / 384 kHz DSD: DSD64, DSD128 / DoP Mode|
|DAC Chip||AK4490(AKM) x 1 (Single Stereo Design)|
|THD + N||Min. -111dB, IMD (SMPTE) Min. -110 dB|
|THD (1KHz 2.5Vrms XLR output)||0.00015 %|
|Dynamic Range||MAX 128 dB (CCITT filter)|
|Stereo Crosstalk||Better than -132dB(1kHz)|
|User Software||Aurender Conductor iPad App, iPhone App (Lite Version), Android App (Lite Version), Tablet App|
|Dimensions||13.0 x 2.2 x 14.0 inch / 330 x 55 x 355 mm (unit only)|
13.0 x 2.7 x 14.0 inch / 330 x 68 x 355 mm (unit with foot)
|Weight||22.0 lbs / 10.0 kg|