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.


@jfrmusic, You asked “ May I ask why you went this way?” Very simple. Two of my friends with expensive audio system went with Audirvana Studio and stated their Sound quality was much improved. I contacted others and they agreed. So, I installed a demo Audirvana Studio on my MAC computer and was impressed. After several months of listening, and comparing to my N20, I purchased a dedicated MACBOOK M2 Pro, 12-Core CPU, 19-Core GPU 16GB Unified Memory with Audirvana  

My sound quality is excellent.

have to agree with @benanders on this one.  The extent to which streamers have a “sound” is somewhat controversial in some circles (i.e., if jitter and power source noise is minimized).  So spending a lot of $ on your first streamer seems like a bit of a leap.  There are a lot of well regarded streamers for $1k or less.  A partial list includes: Volumio, Pro-Ject, iFi, cambridge audio, even the Wiim Pro for a mere $150.

oops, sorry, you need both a server for your use case.  But same idea, even more so on the server side.  For that, there are a lot of cheaper alternatives; one that I have alot of experience with are the sonicTransporters from Snall Green Computer.  You can have a very nice unit for under $1.5k, and it comes preloaded with Roon if you ever decide to go that route (which I also recommend - it works seamlessly with Quobuz).

@jfrmusic I have done the spdif to USB comparison with my N200. To answer your question, I prefer the USB interface. The coax was pretty good though but it sounded a bit too reserved and lacked in soundstage, dynamics and extension.
I used DH Labs D750 digital coax and the “stock” Aurender supplied USB cable.

Going from the stock Aurender USB cable to Audioquest Diamond further widens the gap.

However, just to be clear, the results aren’t guaranteed to be consistent with every DAC.
When it comes to usb interface, the DAC implementation and clock is what matters the most. With spdif the clock in the transport/streamer is a critical element. The N200 is optimized for USB while featuring a decent clock for spdif. This is where the N20 takes it up a notch or three with its integrated OXCO clock that takes care if the outbound spdif signal better than the lower grade clock in the N200 does.

Great thread here with input from a number of trusted sources that I "listened" to when going through my streamer selection process six months ago.  I decided on Aurender and was going to go with a new N150 but decided instead to search for  a gently used/ one owner N200. I had to be patient and diligent in my search and it took several months.  Worth the process, wait and search.