Robinson's Brutus Awards for 2016


Robinson's Brutus Awards for 2016
Aurender W20

The Aurender W-20 Reference Music Server, a technological wonder!

Aurender's W-20 is their ne plus ultra assault on the possibilities of LAN-based music storage and serving. Featuring 2 x 6 TB hard drives for 12 TB of storage (HUGE!), plus a 240 GB solid-state drive (SSD) as a cache…choice, that...the W-20 is a formidable music server and state-of-the-art implementation of a list of technically sweet features.

Among them are three sets of internal battery banks, two which alternatively charge-and-discharge, back and forth, while the third acts as a battery backup (BBU) for safe shutdowns in the case of a complete loss of external power.

The hard drive subsystem is heavily built and shielded from shock/vibration. Extreme power supply regulation…exceptional USB 2.0 implementation…ultra-low jitter rates…support for multiple audio formats, including Single and Double DSD (not Quad DSD yet, however, the single drawback that I see)…multiple-look front displays…and the exceptional Aurender Conductor control interface application for tablets like my iPad Air 2.

For a complete list of features, visit the Aurender W-20 page. For an information technology person like me, this is how to do a music server right. Very cool.

What's not to like?

I received a review sample of the W-20, and have put it through its paces in 2016. This was done in conjunction with the Playback Designs IPS-3 Integrated Amplifier with integrated Quad DSD DAC (though used only up to Double DSD, given the W-20's lack of support for Quad DSD). The IPS-3 was immediately recognized by the W-20 during setup…no surprise, since Andreas Koch did some consulting with Aurender during the development of the W-20…and came up without a problem.

My extensive listening in our LAN here at PF River City indicates that the W-20 is an exceptional music server. It imparts a sense of transparency, clarity, and provides a rock-solid delivery of audio streams. It never faltered, even through several power interruptions in 2016, and always handled such (inevitable) events with aplomb, and without corrupting any music files it its care. (That's a very big deal, by the way; there's nothing worse than a blown up file structure to ruin a day.) Additionally, I've taken the W-20 through several firmware updates over the Internet without incident, each adding capabilities/introducing fixes from the Aurender home base. Very important, that.

I also observe that Aurender provides remote connection via the Internet to assist with any debugging required by Aurender on your W-20. This is the only way to handle tech support if you want to be able to really do customer support on sophisticated computer-based audio appliances like the W-20. While the W-20 isn't cheap (MSRP of $17,600, last time I checked), you do get an exceptional, technically sweet package, that's built like a tank, seems to be bulletproof, and has just about every technical enhancement that an IT nerd could suggest.

It's certainly the largest-capacity and most technically sophisticated music server that I've heard to date. An amazing accomplishment, and clearly worthy of one of my Brutus Award this year.

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