TAS PRODUCT OF THE YEAR 2015

W20, N100H

MUSIC SERVERS OF THE YEAR

Aurender W20

The top-of-the-line W20 music server from Aurender offers a no-hassle way of having your music library literally at your fingertips--a couple of taps on an iPad and you can call up any piece of music in your collection. Although many music servers offer this convenience, none in RH's experience can match the W20 in technology, ease of use, and most importantly, sonics.

Aurender has made a heroic effort to optimize sound quality, an effort that's readily apparent in the listening room, where its sound has a natural and organic quality that comes closer to the "feel" of analog than any other digital source RH has heard. The presentation has a dimensionality, life, bloom, and illumination that one doesn't associate with digital. Technically, the W20 is a wunderkind that includes a computer motherboard built from scratch, and isolated in a shielded sub-enclosure.

The audio-output board that creates the signal that drives your DAC is powered by rechargeable batteries, so that the signal isn't compromised by AC power-line noise. The W20 is designed to do three things and do them well: store music; allow you to access that music; and then present the highest-quality digital-output signal to your DAC. The W20 has no integral DAC and no CD-ripping capability, and offers no metadata editing. The current state of the art in music servers, it excels in every parameter; its array of features is unmatched ( the 12TB of available storage will accommodate virtually any music library); its interface is wonderful and intuitive; and most importantly, it delivers sound quality unmatched by any other digital source RH has heard. The W20 revealed that standard-resolution files have a space, dimensionality, and ease that were just waiting to be uncovered by playback hardware of this quality. That all adds up to an easy choice for The Absolute Sound's Music Server of the Year Award. RH, 258

MUSIC SERVERS OF THE YEAR

Aurender N100H

Aurender's N100H brings you a surprising amount of the technology, sound quality, and outstanding ergonomics of the flagship W20 for a fraction of the price. You don't get features such as dual-wire AES and clock input, but most users don't need those capabilities anyway. The internal storage is 2TB rather than 12TB, but you can always add a NAS drive for more capacity. What you do get is the same outstanding Conductor app, Tidal integration, and remote support. Aurender's Conductor app for iPad is by far the best RH has used-fast, visually appealing, stable, intuitive, capable, and uncluttered, with features that have been clearly refined through actual use. Sonically, the N100H comes pretty close to the W20's state-of-the-art performance, particularly considering the cost differential. Both Aurender servers exhibit an analog-like ease, dimensionality, spaciousness, and bloom all too often missing from digital reproduction. Having used the N100H and W20 side-by-side, RH can say that the N100H offers the identical user experience and many of the flagship's sonic virtues for a lot less money. RH, 258