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

@audphile1 

The dealer is Overture in Delaware (home of tax free shopping). It about 30 minutes from me in Southern NJ

Ah I kind of thought that was it…I’m in north jersey and that’s a hike for me. I’m been there and it’s a good store. Keep us posted. 

@audphile1

I have not heard MSB Discrete with MSB renderer but one would assume (given MSB immaculate implementation of these modules) that it shouldn’t sound any worse, different maybe but certainly not worse than when compared with Discrete DAC fed by N200 through its Pro USB module.

For example, my Merging DAC sound pretty darn good with its embedded Roon Core + renderer but clearly Roon rendering is not in the same league as N30SA. The Roon option is only $3500 with Merging DAC, so it’s not a fair comparison but it sounds good enough for most end users 😊 I believe you had a similar experience with Bricasti’s network module. 

Ok I had my audition and it was quite an adventure so this may be a little long!

Test 1

I started my audition with the Aurender N200 connected to an Esoteric DAC (not sure which model) then through a Hegel Pre and Amp feeding  the Harbeth 7es-XD Speakers which are the ones I own. The sounds were very good with a nice soundstage and loads of transparency yet I noticed a little lower treble brightness on strings and the soundstage seemed to be overly lit up. They didn't have an Aurender N20 but did have a N30 in another room I asked to hear that.I thought the DAC or Amp may be the issue and not the Aurender.

Test 2

This room did not have my speakers so many variables changed. The N30 was connected to an MSB DAC and I'm not sure which one but is was one of their multi box units. The Amps where some giant floor mono blocks that were about 2' by 3' and 6" high.which were feed by their their companion preamp. The brand began with a V but I had never heard of it. The speakers were large Excelon floor model units which sell for $110K per pair. So quite a different mix. Any way I can tell you and you may think I'm crazy but I preferred the sound in the first test. The treble in this room was more in your face and not as smooth and the bass while more robust didn't have a natural feel to me. Plus the sound stage while large just seemed off and somewhat exaggerated. Even my sales agent thought the same. This is a new speaker line they just brought on. Anyway I guess some like this type of presentation and are willing to pay a lot for it.I thought the Speakers were the issue in this test.

Test 3

Went back to room one. I asked for the MSB Discrete DAC to be used with the Aurender N200. I asked about the Network streaming capability with the MSB to see if that would be an option to eliminate the Aurender. They said the MSB can only be used as a Roon endpoint. I was sure you could also use Mconnect but they were adamant about it. Now the Aurender N200 only supports USB and S/PDIF Coax. So they said they would need to add two inter connecting USB add-on modules to the MSB. I questioned the need for these two modules as the MSB site shows a basic USB module and an advanced Fiber Optic based two unit addition. The techs there said you can only use the two unit device to get USB. So we proceeded with the test. Let me tell you the MSB Discrete utterly smoked the Esoteric. No contest! In every facet the MSB was superior. Bass, Soundstage, Transparency, Imaging with a beautiful treble. No hash. No Grain. Just amazing. Just swapping the MSB in and the Esoteric out completely transformed this system. It shows how source is so important on one side of the audio equation and speakers on the other.

Upon hearing this I asked for a package deal if I got the Aurender N200 and the MSB Discrete with the optional second power supply (which is how I was auditioning it) and the two unit USB upgrade. They gave me a fair deal but I wanted to think about it so I went to lunch. At lunch I decided to call Vince at MSB. And here's where the story takes a turn.

I asked him first about the USB issue. He said yes there is an original USB module and a more advanced fiber based two device unit. He said the Fiber one was better but not significantly. He asked what Aurender I was considering. He said with that N200 model I would need at least the original USB module as USB performed much better than RCA Coax. BTW each of these add-on modules is $990. He said He uses the Aurender N30 with his own MSB units. So I asked about the Networking and he said yes it's a Roon endpoint but you could use Mconnect he but said it was complicated to make it work right and even he found it complicated. Then he said if you want the absolute best performance from the MSB use an AES connection. So I said then that's an advantage to using the Aurender N20 which supports AES. He said definitely plus you the can also connect the MSB clock out to the Aurender N20 clock in via BNC. He said their clock is superior to the one in the Aurender and that would give me another  significant improvement in performance. He said this combination of AES and BNC would net a minimum of a 30% performance increase to be conservative but it was probably much higher. So he strongly recommended the N20 with the AES/BNC if I wanted to get the best from the MSB.

So I went back to the dealer and ordered:

An Aurender N20

MSB Discrete with the second optional power supply

Hopefully will arrive in a week.

Sorry for the long story but I wanted to explain what transpired. I want an endgame system for me. .And this I believe it it. Will maybe there's a still an Amp to be upgraded but that would be it.

Be a happy to field any questions