Aurender Model Choices

Before I ask my question let me provide some context.

My system includes the following:

New MacBook Air Running itunes/Music serving hundreds of stored CDs

Macbook connected to my Benchmark DAC3 via Audioquest Coffee USB Cable

DAC balanced connection to Benchmark HPA4 PreAmp

PreAmp balanced connection to Benchmark ABH2 Amp

Benchmark Amp connected to Harbeth C7es-XD Speakers

This configuration has provided a neutral clean, and balanced sound. Really no complaints. However I wanted to add Streaming. So I Signed up for Qobuz and downloaded the App to my MacBook. Using WiFi I found that the Qobuz stream offered superior sound quality to my local CD library. Even Redbook CD quality was better plus the HiRes albums were really good

So now I need to get a dedicated Streamer. Using the MacBook is not convenient and from what I’ve read a Streamer should offer additional SQ enhancement. I’ve done a lot of research and really like the Aurender products plus when I recently purchased my speakers I auditioned them with an Aurender Model 100. The sound was excellent. I plan to go back in a few weeks to audition the $6k N200 model. I’m sure it will sound very good but I will be left wondering what does the N20 sound like? How much better can it be for another $6K? Unfortunately my dealer doesn’t have one to audition and neither does any other dealer near me. I’ve read comments on several forums that the N20 is twice as good as the N200 or that the N200 is nipping at the heals of the N20 or that the N20 just offers a 20% increase in SQ or the N20 blows the N200 out of the water. Without a side by side audition I’m struggling with paying twice the price without a demonstrable and significant SQ improvement. I would expect a SQ that once heard I could never settle for the less expensive model. In my recent experience a more expensive model does’t always win. When buying my speakers I auditioned the Harbeth C7es-XD and the more expensive 30.2 XD model. After almost an hour of back and forth I preferred the lower priced model.

So to conclude has anyone had the opportunity to audition the N20 and N200 together?

If so please Specifically what if any SQ differences did you hear and were they worth an additional $6k?

As I listen to my system streaming from my MacBook with wonderfully smooth, clean HiRes sound  I wonder can I actually get significantly more improvement for $6k or $12K?

Thanks for any info and experiences you can provide.


I’ve had Harbeth speakers with Benchmark electronics and think it is an awesome combination.  Very synergistic.  That said, Harbeth loudspeakers are not the most revealing speakers (the monitor series are a little more so).  I think you would not hear a lot of difference between any of these streamers.  At the level of your system, while very good but one I would describe as more musical than analytical, when choosing a streamer I would consider which features you want in the streamer more than sound differences (and therefore recommend you look at others in addition to Aurender).
   WRT Aurender, they are excellent for sure.  I’ve owned both the N200 and N20.  The biggest difference between the two is that the N20 has a superior OCXO clock in it (which is only used if you use the SPDIF or AES output) and also does upsampling on the fly.  Otherwise if you are going to use USB output I would not personally splurge for the N20.  Even then, the N150 might suit just fine.  If your dealer is willing try to borrow them and see (hear) for yourself.  
    I mentioned features being what I would recommend looking at at this level above potential sound quality.  These include desired interface (Roon vs Aurender Conductor vs Innuous sense, etc.), upsampling/downsampling capablity (very robust in Lumin products for example), outputs available (USB, SPDIF or AES/EBU) compared to what may be the best input on your DAC, streamers having inboard storage (aurender) vs requiring an outboard server (Lumin), and such things.  There are so many permutations that unfortunately it may take owning a few of these different manufacturers’ models before really understanding what you like best.  
    But overall I think finding a streamer that suits your needs and preferences will give you more satisfaction.  Before spending a lot of cash on a more expensive streamer I would try to hear in your own system if the differences in sound between streamers are that obvious.  Dealers will tell you the N20 is leaps and bounds above the 200, and it is great - IF your system and room allows you to use it to its potential and you can hear a difference via your system.  

Sorry, you asked what differences between the N200 and N20.  When I used the N20 AES output upsampled, driving either a Denafrips Terminator (also using its upsampling) or Mojo audio DAC, compared to the N200 the sound is cleaner, clearer, more refined overall.  These traits I value and one reason I liked the Benchmark equipment with Harbeth.  Once I got a DAC that I would be using only USB with, I went to the N200.  USB input will use the clock in your DAC as opposed to the one in the streamer.  

+1 @ghdprentice  Building a system is all about balance, and spending $12k on a streamer in your current system is over the top IMHO.  You’re better off taking that other $6k and upgrading another component, adding room treatments, etc.  The N200 is going to be such a big improvement over your computer it’s really hard to see you being disappointed or having buyer’s remorse.  Go for it!



Spending $12K on a streamer is a waste of resources on that level of a system unless you upgrade everything (plan on spending $75K). Streamers do not contribute as much to the sound as a good DAC. 

I would much rather have a $2K streamer into a $10K DAC than the reverse. I currently run a $5K streamer into a $19K DAC and have no desire to upgrade. I am a person who is never satisfied and always wants the latest and greatest!


Thanks to each of you for your thoughtful responses. You have given me much to think about. I guess it's possible that my system is not of a level where I will hear all the N20 has to offer. I currently don't plan on upgrading my Pre Amp, Amp or DAC at the moment as I consider them to be excellent performers with extremely low distortion and very high SNR. But who knows. As you all know nothing is forever when it comes to Audio components. I'm thinking that once I audition the N200 I'll like it so much I won't feel the need to go for the N20. Although one of the reasons  from a feature perspective I like about the N20 was the OCXO clock for BNC and Coax. With N200 I'd stay with USB or possibly it's Coax. Benchmark told me that if you have a good Coax out the DAC3 Coax will perform better than the USB. BTW Roon not an issue for me.


Did you compare the N200 Coax with it's USB?