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Review and Measurements of Aurender A10 Streamer

amirm

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#1
This is review and detailed measurements of the Aurender A10 streamer and player. It was kindly loaned to me for brief testing by Gig Harbor audio. The unit retails for USD $5,500. For that, you get a streamer and DAC with 4 TBytes of storage and SSD for caching.

If you are not familiar with Aurender, they are the most common streamer I see at audio shows. In that regard, its price is not a larger percentage of a high-end audio system but of course, significantly higher than the typical desktop products we talk about.

The unit I tested was quite hefty and had pretty high-end fit and finish. Please excuse the quality of the mobile phone picture in dim lighting:

aurender  A10 Music Server & Player.jpg


The unit I was testing kept complaining about the SSD needing repair due to improper shutdown but it allowed me to use it anyway. Was strange that it did not use some kind of journaling file system to allow quick recovery from a power failure.

For my testing, I was only interested in its performance as a DAC. I am sure there are a lot of reviews online about its operation as a streamer. I connected the unit using S/PDIF (or was it Toslink?) since there is no USB interface. Actually there is a USB interface but it is the host side, allowing external storage to be connected to the unit.

Measurements
Due to limited amount of time, these measurements are not as extensive as my typical review but I think we can get a good performance of its performance anyway. Let's start with our dashboard:
Aurender A10 Player and Streamer Measurement.png


We see that the unit is very close to matching its stated performance as far as distortion and noise. This places the Aurender A10 in the top tier of DACs tested:

1544577862660.png


Next I ran intermodulation test:

aurender  A10 Music Server & Player Intermodulation Distortion Measurement.png


The A10 uses AKM4490 DAC chip which unlike ESS DACs has a linear and smooth intermoduation distortion curve (good). We see that it essentially matches the Topping DX3 Pro DAC which uses an AKM DAC. While the DX3 Pro saturates a bit at higher levels, the A10 barely does so. Very nice.

Finally I ran the linearity test:
Aurender A10 Player and Streamer Linearity Measurement.png


The Aurender A10 nails this test, producing essentially textbook perfect results.

Conclusions
The triplet of tests that I ran on Aurender A10 shows it to be a very well engineered machine. It produces performance at the top level of DACs tested, falling just shy of state-of-the-art. For people wanting a fully configured streamer as opposed to building their own out of PCs, Macs or Raspberry Pi boards, it makes a very good option. Yes, $5,500 is fair bit of money but my own server cost me nearly half of that and I had to put in a lot time and effort to build it.

So overall, if you are looking for a high-end streamer, I can recommend the Aurender A10 from performance point of view.

-------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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restorer-john

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#3
So the unit has an internal 4TB HDD and I presume a fan on the back to cool it all?

How noisy was the machine in actual use, or was it drowned out by the AP's fan?

edit: looked it up on stereophile.

Storage is limited to a 4TB hard disk drive (a 5TB Seagate drive option is in the testing phase), while cached playback is via a 120GB solid-state drive. This two-drive system—in which music stored on the HDD is cached for playback on the SSD—is claimed to completely eliminate electrical and acoustic noise produced by spinning disks, moving heads, and motors.
An HDD icon appears on the Aurender's large, adjustable display as a new track is being cached to SSD. During this period, which doesn't last very long, ultimate sound quality is sacrificed. When the track has been transferred, the HD then goes to sleep to minimize wear, and the sound level returns to optimal.
 
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Guermantes

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#5
Nice to see it performing so well, considering the price.

On the software side, it seems that Aurender has resolved its GPL compliance issues with the use of Music Player Daemon: https://www.musicpd.org/commercial.html. Previously it was not compliant, so it is now legit but probably out of date.
 

derp1n

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#6
For a $5,500 machine, you think they could have just put 4TB of SSD storage into the thing to avoid any HDD noise
This thing has been available since at least early 2017. If 4TB SSDs were even available then, price would be a major consideration even with the $5500 retail on this.

On the software side, it seems that Aurender has resolved its GPL compliance issues with the use of Music Player Daemon: https://www.musicpd.org/commercial.html. Previously it was not compliant, so it is now legit but probably out of date.
Pretty sad they did not get their compliance straight from the beginning. Obviously a selfish company worth avoiding.
 

amirm

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#7
For a $5,500 machine, you think they could have just put 4TB of SSD storage into the thing to avoid any HDD noise
These are sold through the dealer channel so their cost has to be a fraction of this.
 
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#8
This thing has been available since at least early 2017. If 4TB SSDs were even available then, price would be a major consideration even with the $5500 retail on this.
Decent point. They have dropped in price a lot over the past 2 years.
 

Guermantes

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#9
Pretty sad they did not get their compliance straight from the beginning. Obviously a selfish company worth avoiding.
From what I have read, there has been some confusion about the GPL. At least Aurender did the right thing to fix the issue, some of the other manufacturers Max Kellermann contacted used obfuscation or mostly ignored him.
 

March Audio

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#10
@amirm could I suggest a change to the SINAD graph? Those units that are outputting a higher voltage than 2 V rms have their bars changed to a different colour. This would make it very easy to see where we are comparing apples with apples.
 

restorer-john

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#12
@amirm could I suggest a change to the SINAD graph? Those units that are outputting a higher voltage than 2 V rms have their bars changed to a different colour. This would make it very easy to see where we are comparing apples with apples.
Yes, but what about 2.1V vs 2.0V and 4V, 3V and 1V units, do they get all get different colours?

If you do it, you'd need colour ranges, for example 0-1.5V, 1.55-2.5V and 2.55V and above.

Highest level- red (for hot)
Medium level- green (for normal)
Lowest level - blue (for cold)
 

derp1n

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#13
Hey now, let's not disrupt AudioSINADReview's raison d'être. ;)
 

March Audio

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#14
Yes, but what about 2.1V vs 2.0V and 4V, 3V and 1V units, do they get all get different colours?

If you do it, you'd need colour ranges, for example 0-1.5V, 1.55-2.5V and 2.55V and above.

Highest level- red (for hot)
Medium level- green (for normal)
Lowest level - blue (for cold)
I don't agree. 2 v is the normal domestic standard. If we are talking dacs most line outputs will confirm to this. Very few, if any, are significantly lower. If they are close to 2 v, ie 2.1 etc, then it's not a significant difference in this context, however getting to 4 V plus is.

You just need something to indicate to the reader that the output is significantly different, usually higher, to look at the text of the review to understand what it is and the positive effect that may have on the headline SINAD figure.

Ie that you ate not comparing apples with apples.

Headphone outputs / amps should be in a seperate table.
 

maxxevv

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#16
Yes, but what about 2.1V vs 2.0V and 4V, 3V and 1V units, do they get all get different colours?

If you do it, you'd need colour ranges, for example 0-1.5V, 1.55-2.5V and 2.55V and above.

Highest level- red (for hot)
Medium level- green (for normal)
Lowest level - blue (for cold)
That's a fair range.

I think that for future SINAD measures, those that can go higher in output should also show their values at the lower voltage ranges too. As some actually show better readings at the lower ranges. So there will be 3 tables. With those able to output the highest values populating all three tables and the lowest only the lowest table.

It will help people to decide which one serves their minimum needs the best if there's an apples-apples output comparison.
 

restorer-john

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#17
...don't agree. 2 v is the normal domestic standard...
It may well be the 'standard' but many are just under 2V and a bunch are closer to 2.5V.

What's wrong with Low, Standard and High? Obviously due to variations (see all Amir's tests and no doubt some of your own) a range needs to be specified for each category.

What do you think is a better solution?

I'd say test the whole lot at 2.0V, but there's a number of the little toy D/As Amir tests that can't hit that figure.
 

March Audio

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#18
A small variation isnt significant. For example a dac I have on the bench at the moment

1.97 V - 102.1 dB sinad
1.75 V - 101.8 dB
drop it to 0.99 V - 97.4 dB

rounded (as we appear to be in the graph) 102dB, 102dB, 97dB.
102dB to 97dB is a significant variation. So going up 6 dB to 4 V out which quite a few are, will yield a significant difference in SINAD.

Its for simplicity of reading to draw attention for the reader that "this dac is significantly different output". Not all readers are technically familiar, so its just to make it clear that those headline numbers arent telling the whole story. Making graphs too complex is not a good idea for the wider audience, but hey perhaps 3 colours isnt a problem :)
 
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March Audio

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#19
Just to be clear, the 4 volt outputs are balanced.
Indeed, but we are still back to the fundamental issue that higher output voltage (all things being equal) will yield a better SINAD.
 

Theo

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#20
I don't agree. 2 v is the normal domestic standard.
Aren't 2.0V/4.0V output line level more like a consensus among manufacturers than a standard? I thought -10dBV/4dBU were the standard? Aren't 2.0/4.0V more like a maximum?

What is then the headroom available on domestic audio inputs (amps/preamps) above the "standard" level? If I'm correct, 2.0/4.0V would already require a +16dB/+10dB headroom above "standard" at the amp/preamp input. Shouldn't we avoid having more than 2.0/4.0V output to avoid the risk of building saturation down the line?
 
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