*Official* Pioneer N-50 Network Audio Player Thread - Page 10 - AVS Forum
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post #271 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 03:10 AM
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Originally Posted by plummerl View Post

I'm just now considering acquiring a media streamer and was interested in the Pioneer N-50. My puzzlement is trying to find a place to possibly buy it! Pioneer's site shows it as current, with a price. I cannot find a single retailer in the USA that has it even listed for sale and Amazon has it for an elevated price and coming from Japan. What's going on?

I called Pioneer's ORDER BY PHONE line, the woman I talked to was somewhat puzzled about the N-50, but finally came back and said they had it in stock, did I want to order it?

Anyone know what's going on, otherwise I'll probably go with the Cambridge Magic Stream.
eek.gif


Its going end of life according to my local hi fi shop, due to be replaced soon.

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post #272 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 05:27 AM
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Is this just suposition by your local shop, or do they have some inside information (new model numbers, spec, etc)? There certainly has been no official announcement from Pioneer and both the N-30 & N-50 are still being widely sold in Japan & Europe.
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post #273 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 05:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekreator View Post

Hi all, I am still very much considering the N-50 but I am wondering if there are any alternatives I should look at? I am interested in streaming FLAC files from a NAS drive or PC and internet radio. I have seen the Marantz MCR610 but I am not sure that will provide the same audio quality as the N50 - it does however offer Spotify/Last.FM which I don't think is possible with the N50.

So, are there any other pieces of kit worth considering along with the N50/MCR610?
The Marantz MCR610 is an all in one system, ie it includes a built-in amplifier, etc, whereas the N-50 is a streamer. You should be comparing it to something like the Marantz NA7004, though that's at least a year older than the N-50 and is definitely due for replacement by the NA8005, expected later this year.

The only other comparable network audio player in terms of sound quality is the Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 (similar age as the N-50) mentioned by Plummerl. There's the lower specified Cambridge Audio NP30, similar quality to the Pioneer N-30 and there is the even older Denon DNP-720AE.
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post #274 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 05:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Cebolla View Post

Is this just suposition by your local shop, or do they have some inside information (new model numbers, spec, etc)? There certainly has been no official announcement from Pioneer and both the N-30 & N-50 are still being widely sold in Japan & Europe.
 
Stocks seem very low to me, if you look at Amazon.  Richers sounds said they had one unit in their warehouse.
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post #275 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 05:59 AM
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A replacement is probably about due as it's at least 2 years old. However, going by the last wave of Pioneer AVR, network speaker and all in one system replacements, the older models were still being officially supplied with the new ones already in the shops. If Pioneer are withdrawing the N-50 & N-30, I suspect they don't yet have a replacement set of models ready to announce, let alone sell.

BTW, stocks have always been low. I supposedly got the last new N-50 (ie not returned/demo/ex-display) in the whole of Richer Sounds last April! Though it is possible they've been winding them down since then.
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post #276 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 06:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cebolla View Post

The Marantz MCR610 is an all in one system, ie it includes a built-in amplifier, etc, whereas the N-50 is a streamer. You should be comparing it to something like the Marantz NA7004, though that's at least a year older than the N-50 and is definitely due for replacement by the NA8005, expected later this year.

The only other comparable network audio player in terms of sound quality is the Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 (similar age as the N-50) mentioned by Plummerl. There's the lower specified Cambridge Audio NP30, similar quality to the Pioneer N-30 and there is the even older Denon DNP-720AE.

Thanks for your reply! Yep I understand that the MCR610 is a different thing really, it just covers most of the functionality that I like so brought it up. Is there any way for the N50 to stream spotify/last.fm by any chance?

If I go with the N50 I will be going for a completely new setup - unfortunately I don't think I can stretfch to be able to afford to pair with the Pioneer A50&PD50. Does anybody know if the earlier A30 and PD30 will be a nice match - or should I look elsewhere rather than just looking in the same range/appearance?
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post #277 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 06:25 AM
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I believe the N-50 was originally intended for the A50/A70 & PD50, being of similar build quality. I think the N-50 and PD50 even share the exact same chassis and DAC components. The N-30 was probably more intended to be paired with the A30 & PD30. However that doesn't mean the N-50 can't be used with them too.

Presumably you have or intend to play SACDs, otherwise couldn't you just rip your whole CD collection for the N-50 and go without a CD player? That way you may also be able to afford to get the A50 instead of the A30.
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post #278 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 06:34 AM
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No it's not SACD im interested in, just CD - I still intend to use CD and then rip certain parts of my collection - at least in the first place as I won't find the time for ripping the entire collection any time soon!

Do you think there will be a big difference when pairing with the A50 rather than A30? You have made me think I should probably go for the N50/A50 combo and then possibly look for a cheaper CD player to go with.
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post #279 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 08:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekreator View Post

Hi all, I am still very much considering the N-50 but I am wondering if there are any alternatives I should look at? I am interested in streaming FLAC files from a NAS drive or PC and internet radio. I have seen the Marantz MCR610 but I am not sure that will provide the same audio quality as the N50 - it does however offer Spotify/Last.FM which I don't think is possible with the N50.

So, are there any other pieces of kit worth considering along with the N50/MCR610?

I've had to write the N-50 off my list for a number of reasons. On paper, the product looks to be a good value for the money, but there are problems that have been identified in this forum including:

1. Age of the product (2 years is an eternity, especially with new entries into the market from Sony and others)
2. Some say that it has less than stellar sound through the digital inputs (versus hard drives or networked media)
3. Lack of support for 172.6 kHz.
4. No DSD support (Sony is pushing this hard now, but there is still little content).

To that end, I've been looking at the following products:

1. Emotiva DC-1. The price is right ($499) and reviewers like the sound quality. Downsides are no DSD support and no Airplay.
2. Oppo BDP-105/105D. Expensive ($1199-$1299). The 105D pretty much plays everything available...even DSD 5.6. Support for balanced inputs and outputs. Downsides is that some people don't like the sound quality as much as dedicated DACs and no Airplay.
3. Oppo HA-1. This product isn't shipping yet, so it's pretty academic right now. It's being billed as a true headphone amp but it has the same DAC system as the 105. It has support for balanced headphones as well as inputs/outputs. It should have a better headphone amp than the 105 (Class A power). Downsides are no spinning disc support (important to some people). No official word on price or ship date but a writeup on Audioholics says that Oppo was telling CES patrons to expect in the 2nd quarter of 2014 for a price around $1200.

Now there are plenty of DACs out there...this is hardly a definitive list. I would have thought that Pioneer would have used CES to launch a new product or at least just to tease one but apparently that didn't happen (Oppo didn't use CES to introduce the 105D either).

Rick
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post #280 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 10:15 AM
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Rick,

I thought it best to qualify that lack of 176.4 kHz support you mentioned. It only applies to the (rear) asynchronous USB DAC input and not to anything else. So that means that 176.4 kHz FLAC & WAV files are supported by the N-50 on the (front) mass storage USB input, as well as via UPnP/DLNA network streaming. Similarly the 176.4 kHz sample rate is supported on the coax & optical DAC inputs.

Certainly no review or posts I've ever seen outside this forum and no posts in this forum, apart from a couple of comments, have mentioned any problems with the N-50's sound quality via its DAC inputs. If anything the earlier comments stated that the DAC inputs were the best in terms of sound quality, especially praising the async USB DAC input! The later ones mention no noticeable sound quality differences between DAC inputs, UPnP/DLNA streaming, AirPlay and storage USB input. I certainly can't tell the difference on my N-50 & choose to stream via UPnP/DLNA for the covenience. It certainly requires a lot more effort to set up a computer, with attached DAC, for music playback with decent sound quality, than it does to network stream or plug in a USB stick. Lack of enough knowledge and/or decent computer hardware/software could easily account for the discrepancy.

I agree the device is no spring chicken, but there's still some mileage left in it I believe, if Pioneer decides to carry on improving it with firmware updates. For example, it shares the same DAC & mass storage USB input hardware as the PD-50 CD player, which is able to read DSD files from the USB input.

The N-50 is a decent device, is here now and mature enough to have had most of its original problems sorted out. I believe your real issue, at least in the US, is that it's not easily available anymore. It was certainly the best streaming DAC device going for the old retail price of $699, let alone that ridiculous street price it had dropped to of $450 or less just before Christmas! If you do get a chance to listen to one, you certainly shouldn't be disappointed with its sound quality.

John
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post #281 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 11:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekreator View Post

No it's not SACD im interested in, just CD - I still intend to use CD and then rip certain parts of my collection - at least in the first place as I won't find the time for ripping the entire collection any time soon!

Do you think there will be a big difference when pairing with the A50 rather than A30? You have made me think I should probably go for the N50/A50 combo and then possibly look for a cheaper CD player to go with.
I can't really say, since I've never compared the two amps myself. Certainly on paper the A50 is the better device, but only you can really make the choice as to whether its worth the extra expense. I no longer have a CD player and use my existing old cheap BD player, with the N-50 as its DAC, for any one off CD playing. You should certainly be able to get decent enough quality sound if you decide to buy a cheaper CD player and use the N-50 as its DAC. You wouldn't have this option if you got the N-30, since it hasn't got digital inputs to allow its DAC to be used by another device.
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post #282 of 336 Old 01-21-2014, 11:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cebolla View Post

Rick,

I thought it best to qualify that lack of 176.4 kHz support you mentioned. It only applies to the (rear) asynchronous USB DAC input and not to anything else. So that means that 176.4 kHz FLAC & WAV files are supported by the N-50 on the (front) mass storage USB input, as well as via UPnP/DLNA network streaming. Similarly the 176.4 kHz sample rate is supported on the coax & optical DAC inputs.

Certainly no review or posts I've ever seen outside this forum and no posts in this forum, apart from a couple of comments, have mentioned any problems with the N-50's sound quality via its DAC inputs. If anything the earlier comments stated that the DAC inputs were the best in terms of sound quality, especially praising the async USB DAC input! The later ones mention no noticeable sound quality differences between DAC inputs, UPnP/DLNA streaming, AirPlay and storage USB input. I certainly can't tell the difference on my N-50 & choose to stream via UPnP/DLNA for the covenience. It certainly requires a lot more effort to set up a computer, with attached DAC, for music playback with decent sound quality, than it does to network stream or plug in a USB stick. Lack of enough knowledge and/or decent computer hardware/software could easily account for the discrepancy.

I agree the device is no spring chicken, but there's still some mileage left in it I believe, if Pioneer decides to carry on improving it with firmware updates. For example, it shares the same DAC & mass storage USB input hardware as the PD-50 CD player, which is able to read DSD files from the USB input.

The N-50 is a decent device, is here now and mature enough to have had most of its original problems sorted out. I believe your real issue, at least in the US, is that it's not easily available anymore. It was certainly the best streaming DAC device going for the old retail price of $699, let alone that ridiculous street price it had dropped to of $450 or less just before Christmas! If you do get a chance to listen to one, you certainly shouldn't be disappointed with its sound quality.

John

My comments were not to criticize anyone's purchase of this product. I think it's safe to say that the owners of the N-50 and the N-30 have been pleased overall and the product still has features either not in other products or in the price point. You're right about 176.4 kHz not being supported on the async DAC but IS supported by USB mass storage and DLNA...sorry for the error and confusion. In my case, I would more likely be using the USB DAC via a Mac, so that's why I missed that point. I was also careful to couch my comments on the sound quality depending on the input as "some say" rather than this being a definitive statement. I've not heard the product so I cannot comment with any first hand authority.

And getting ahold of the product through standard retail channels is not easy. I was hoping to audition one locally but my local high-end audio store stopped carrying Pioneer Elite earlier last year and Best Buy/Magnolia doesn't carry the product either. I don't like ordering a product I'm not going to keep, but sometimes in the Internet retailing age, it's the only way to know what you're buying (my wife regularly buys clothes/shoes online that end up going back to retailers for not being exactly right). And it may be the only way to A/B compare this product to something like the Emotiva DC-1 is to have both units in my house and hooked up to my rig.

Lastly, the willingness for a vendor for firmware updates (since everything is a little computer this day) is more and more important these days. Nobody's better than Oppo, who usually issues an update for a current product at least three times a year. The last update from Pioneer was (I think) a year ago and that upgrade brought in ALAC compatibility (great!) but not for 192/172.4 kHz (boo!). That's another problem I have...I've already started buying HD music at 192 kHz in ALAC which the Pioneer couldn't play without conversion to AIFF/FLAC first. If Pioneer can continue to support this product with upgrades like this, then that will continue to add value to the product.

Rick
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post #283 of 336 Old 01-31-2014, 05:41 PM
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Hi all,

 

First post so please be gentle...

 

Had a lot of issues getting my WD MyBook Live Duo NAS to be read but now have that sorted (my router is a Fritzbox 7270 btw)...a lot of my files play fine...and there's also a lot that wont play stating URL not found...all my music sourced from home CDs. Can anyone shed any light on this? Interestingly, it is the non-Classical files that are the issue. All Classical (so far) are fine

 

On another note. I downloaded the .bcd file onto a USB drive for firmware update and it returns 'file not found' with the .bcd file being the only file on the USB drive...am I installing the right file? it was the only file embedded in the zip folder
 
Cheers, Romanes
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post #284 of 336 Old 02-01-2014, 09:58 AM
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Hi Romanes, welcome to the forum.

I suspect you may still be having a problem with the UPnP/DLNA media server you are using to provide access to the files on the NAS. The media server may for some reason not have indexed some files properly, so that the music library it is providing the N-50 with is either corrupted or out of date (eg, if files have been moved to a different folder location on the NAS since the last time the music library was re-indexed). It is entirely the media server's job to organise its music file library. The fact that a particular genre of music files are not being referenced correctly is a telling sign of a music library indexing problem.

Out of interest, which media server are you using? I believe there are issues with the one provided on the WD MyBook Live Duo NASs (an old version of Twonky, I think). I also see that your Fritbox 7270 router comes with a media server. Is it able to use the NAS's network shared folders for this purpose and if so have you tried it?

As far as the firmware update software on the USB memory stick is concerned, the .bcd file is the correct one to use. The USB device needs to be FAT formatted for the N-50 to be able to read it in the first place, but even then it's possible that it has a particular issue with the make and model of your memory device. Have you tested if the N-50 can actually read the device in the first place, by trying to playback a music file from it?

John
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post #285 of 336 Old 02-01-2014, 12:16 PM
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Hi John,

Just using the WD server out of the box. Did do a firmware upgrade but still no joy. How can i tell if the Fritzbox has its own server? Sorry, all new to me. On a Mac, so will investigate Serviio and the like.

Which brings me to another point. When I first entertained the idea of using Serviio, a quick look indicated that the shared folders didnt give me access to the WD. It should just be there in the shared folder window, right?

Ah fat32, yes of course. That'll be it. Will reformat and try again

Many thanks for the reply
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post #286 of 336 Old 02-01-2014, 09:50 PM
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Update: Have installed Twonky and can see all the files via the Control App but still a lot are inaccessible. What do I need to do to fix the indexation problem? Is it via Twonky or through WD? TIA

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post #287 of 336 Old 02-02-2014, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roturk View Post

How can i tell if the Fritzbox has its own server? Sorry, all new to me. On a Mac, so will investigate Serviio and the like.

Which brings me to another point. When I first entertained the idea of using Serviio, a quick look indicated that the shared folders didnt give me access to the WD. It should just be there in the shared folder window, right?
According to their website, if the Fritzbox has a media server installed, you should be able to enable it from the "Home Network" menu in the FRITZbox user interface. However, it seems it's only intended for use with an attached USB drive or internal disk drive (if it has one), when the router itself is being used as a NAS. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the Fritzbox's media server can be used with network shared folders from any other device on the network, such as those on your WD NAS.

The network shared folders set up on the WD NAS should be available to the Serviio media server application running on the Mac, but they won't be set up automatically since Serviio doesn't know if you intend to include them. There could potentially be network shared folders available from any device on the network, so it would be a huge waste of resources if Serviio decided to automatically include every single network shared folder available on the network! You'll need to search for them yourself and add the network path for them manually, using the facility provided on the Mac for locating shared folders on the network.


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Originally Posted by Romanes View Post

Update: Have installed Twonky and can see all the files via the Control App but still a lot are inaccessible. What do I need to do to fix the indexation problem? Is it via Twonky or through WD? TIA
Presumably you've managed to install a reasonably up to date version of Twonky on the WD NAS itself? I'm not really familiar with Twonky being used on the WD NAS, but I should imagine you'll need to reindex it from within Twonky setup, rather than the NAS's (especially if it's not the NAS's original media server). The Twonky configuration screens should be available from any web browser via 'http://aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd:9000', where aaa.bbb.ccc.ddd is the IP of the network device Twonky's installed on, ie NAS's IP, presumably. Selecting database rebuild should reindex the music library.
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post #288 of 336 Old 02-02-2014, 12:12 PM
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Have installed in my Mac...not sure how to get it on the WD from there
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post #289 of 336 Old 02-02-2014, 01:07 PM
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You can't get it to the WD from there, as such. You should be able to get its media library to access all the file on the NAS, via network shares (similar to Serviio), but it'll mean having the computer as well as the NAS switched on everytime you want to stream music files stored on the NAS to the N-50. I've found this info getting a version of Twonky on the WD MyBook Live Duo itself, but it's definitely not for the casual user to take on, see:
http://community.twonky.com/twonky/topics/how_to_install_twonky_server_on_wd_mybook_live_duo?page=1

You might be better off investigating if you can re-index the NAS's current media server's library somehow.

BTW, the UPnP/DLNA server that I usually advise to use for music streaming is the excellent MinimServer. It can be installed on all computer formats and I would certainly use that instead of Twonky on the Mac, if you do find that using the media server installed on the NAS is not viable. MinimServer is also installable on many makes of NAS (such as Synology, QNAP & Netgear ReadyNAS). Unfortunately, WD isn't one of them!
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post #290 of 336 Old 02-02-2014, 01:27 PM
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Many thanks again. Is it possible to have several servers on the one machine enabling you to choose one hat suits you best and then be able to switch to another for different purposes?
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post #291 of 336 Old 02-02-2014, 02:53 PM
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Yes, it should be no problem running more than one UPnP/DLNA media server on the same machine, even if they are taking care of the same media files.
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post #292 of 336 Old 02-08-2014, 03:34 PM
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Thanks again. Have now sorted the accessibility issues.  One more question. Have landed on a bifrost/loki combo and would like to explore the possibility of straming DSD files over the n50. Is this possible? If so, how can I set this up, given that I would prefer to use the Bifrost/Loki as the DAc's and not the DAC in the Pioneer. Have connected the Bifrost via optical to the Pioneer and the Loki to the Bifrost as per manual. My issue is that I know that I have some DSD files on my shared network. But the Pioneer refuses to see them. Is there a limitation here? Any help appreciated on this

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post #293 of 336 Old 02-11-2014, 02:09 AM
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As you're probably aware, the N-50 doesn't support DSD files, though it's possible that it could in the future since the AKM AK4480 DAC chip it uses does support DSD (the same DAC is used in the Pioneer PD-50 SACD player, which can currently play DSD files from its USB memory/HDD input).

The only way of currently getting the N-50 to stream DSD files, is to do it indirectly by streaming DoP (DSD over PCM) and attaching a DoP supporting DSD DAC to one of the N-50's S/PDIF outputs. Using a UPnP/DLNA server that can transcode (convert while streaming) the DSD files to DoP, such as MinimServer, will save you the trouble (and storage space) of manually converting the DSD files to DoP ones.

Unfortunately, even though the Schiit Loki DSD DAC supports DoP, it only has a USB DAC input (for attaching to a computer) and no S/PDIF inputs, so it can't be connected to the N-50. It may be worth investigating if an S/PDIF to USB adapter exists and can be used to allow the Loki to be attached to the N-50 for DSD playback via DoP, though I've never heard of any such device.

Incidentally, both the Bifrost & the Loki DACS also use AKM DAC chips, with similar specs to the N-50's. So I'd be surprised if their respective sound signatures aren't very similar.

What did you do in the end to sort out the music file access problems, BTW?
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post #294 of 336 Old 02-11-2014, 02:29 AM
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Thanks again. To get my files in a readable format, i reformatted the non classical files files via minims guide and all now fine. Re the Schiit gear: can i not pass the loki through the bifrost but still use the digital out from the bifrost into he N50? Will see if anyone does do a spdif to usb combo as well...
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post #295 of 336 Old 02-11-2014, 02:33 AM
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I believe 'connecting' the Loki to the Bifrost is only to allow the Bifrost's analogue output to pass through the Loki's analogue output. This is used to save you having to use two sets of RCA line level inputs on your amp, since just attaching the Loki's RCA output to the amp can be used for both the Loki & the Bifrost (with the built-in switch). I don't think the connection allows a DoP signal on the Bifrost's S/PDIF inputs to pass through to the Loki, if that's what you were thinking. The connection just looks like normal analogue stereo RCA, not S/PDIF digital coax or optical.
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post #296 of 336 Old 02-11-2014, 02:41 AM
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Yes that was my hope...looks like its an adapter or via MacMini. Thanks for all your help on this.
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post #297 of 336 Old 03-20-2014, 06:34 AM
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Hi I just joined this forum to flesh out whether & how I can use the N50 or another similar player. I know little about hi-fi so please bear with ok. My situation is I'm moving from a small tropical island to South Africa and I will be able to have a stereo hi-fi (very modest) again :). Currently I play out of my MacBook thru the large BOSE SoundDock…yes it is harsh. I do have a sizable library of digital audio files, FLAC 16 & 24.

 

I want house digital library in a stand-alone setup as part of my stereo system.

 

Question - can I simply plug via USB an external portable hard drive (Apple Airport Time Capsule?) into the N50 and play my files? If not can I simply plug and play a media version portable hard drive (WD My Book AV_TV?) into the N50. I read where N50 and other players can network thru your computer but I’ve yet read where it says I can connect direct to a storage device.

 

I want my laptop in the office. I want my audio files and player at my audio system, and I’d prefer to spend under $1,000.00 for storage & player.

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post #298 of 336 Old 03-20-2014, 02:09 PM
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Hi there.

The N-50 can certainly play files from an external USB HDD, but there are a few issues. Firstly, it can only read from FAT formatted devices - not familiar with Apple devices (apart from iPads) so don't know if that's possible with the Time Capsule. It's best if the USB drive is self powered, rather than relying on the USB connection for its power source, though there is a separate 1.0 A USB power only socket for use with a 'Y' USB lead. Also, since the N-50 does not have built-in media server capabilities, music file access is basic, relying entirely on the physical folder stucture of the HDD's filing system and will certainly not look like the structure of a music library (eg access via album, artist, genre, etc).

Is there any reason for choosing not to network stream and thus not have the benefit of using (remote) media server for the N-50?
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post #299 of 336 Old 03-20-2014, 07:32 PM
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Quote:
Is there any reason for choosing not to network stream and thus not have the benefit of using (remote) media server for the N-50?

 

If I truly knew what that meant I could give an informed answer :)

 

Is network stream the same as streaming content, or is that a reference to paths or streams of content to and from diff sources? For certain I'm not interested in playing music thru wireless, and I'm not interested in using my laptop as my media player or controller. That last part is paramount, if anything is played thru my primary laptop my short attention span is fully engaged...it's like my mind goes into instant ADD mode...the next thing you know it's six hours later and I've half listened to each of the 267 recorded versions of 'theme from Bonanza,' the 1984 Tokyo Phill is tops FYI.  

 

Re use of a media server, I'm getting a distinct view that I don't know what the hell is going on here...

                       ...and a vague image that using a computer as the interface between my own digi file content & hifi is a given (?) unless I want to use a stand alone digi storage & player like the Sony HAP-Z1ES, whose price is looking more reasonable if otherwise I need a DAC, a stand alone computer interface, and a decent 1 or 2 TB RAID1 storage device.

 

Am I missing something? All I have is soft content :/

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post #300 of 336 Old 03-21-2014, 03:34 AM
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Sorry, I forgot to qualify the terminology, as it can be quite vague & confusing. By 'network streaming', I meant the streaming of music files by the N-50 over your (home) network from the device that they are stored in (eg a computer or a NAS) and controlled by the buttons on the N-50's box or its remote control or an app running on a device connected to the same network. The method of connecting the N-50 and the music file containing device to the network is entirely up to you, but wireless is not usually recommended for the higher music file resolutions and a wired ethernet connection is always preferable.

The point I was trying to make is that the majority of hi-res network audio players, like the N-50, have no ability of cataloguing the music files on their own. So for network streaming, music file selection is via specialised media server software running on the network device that they are stored in, as it provides the network audio player/streamer with the music library catalogue. The N-50 accessing the files directly from a USB storage device provides no such catalogue.

Unfortunately, your 'vague image' is actually quite an accurate description of the options currently available to you for hi-res music file playback. However, the 'computer' you use as the 'interface' to the network audio player connected to the hifi, can be any network device that can run a media server and directly access the stored music files. A decent UPnP/DLNA media server to use is the excellent free music dedicated MinimServer, which can be installed on Windows, Mac and Linux computers, as well as some NASs:
http://minimserver.com/features.html
It can even be installed on very small cheap low powered computers (which you could still attach a USB storage drive to), such as a Raspberry Pi or a SheevaPlug.
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