The product category of “media player” continues to grow and cross over with media streamers and media servers. “Smart” apps, once the realm of “smart” TVs, are now the primary feature in media players, game consoles, HDTVs and almost every other device that connects to your home entertainment system.
Tidal Music Streaming Service is the first CD quality (1411 kbps) music streaming service offered in the U.S. With over 25 million tracks in their catalog, they offer a wide variety of musical genres, in addition to curated Playlists and Music Editorials. For the video minded, they also include a catalog of 75,000 music videos, most of which are in HD resolution.
Pioneer currently offers two network audio players in their Elite product line. Both models are best described as media streamers since they do not store music within the player's chassis but rather acquire music from external music servers or devices. The first model is the N-30, which offers the ability to stream high-resolution digital music via Apple's AirPlay or from DLNA-compatible servers. The second model and subject of this review is the N-50 that builds upon the functionality of the N-30 by adding an asynchronous USB DAC as well as optical and coaxial digital inputs so the N-50 can be used as an outboard D/A converter.
It seems only appropriate that I follow my recent review of the Apple TV with a look at another digital player, the Nixeus Fusion HD. This product is another example of a multi-media streaming device. It has the ability to play back a wide variety of formats for video, still photos, and audio. To this it adds Internet functionality in the form of a web browser plus access to services like YouTube and Flickr. It also offers file management in the form of BitTorrent and easy connectivity with your networked computers via Ethernet or WiFi.
Almost every manufacturer these days is including some type of network support in their products. From receivers that connect to home music servers and disc players that stream music and video from the internet, we have lots of options for enjoying content with our home entertainment systems. While Marantz has been including network support in their products for a while, they have not offered a stand-alone network streamer until now: The NA7004 streams music from your computer, the Internet, and even USB thumb drives.
Ever since Louis Daguerre took the first photograph and Thomas Edison lowered the needle on the first phonograph, media has been a part of our lives. The reproduction of still and moving images and sound is an art form that we are unlikely to see the zenith of in our lifetimes. Since the early part of the twentieth century, sound and video reproduction usually came in the form of magnetic tape, film or vinyl records. Now with the proliferation of digital storage methods, evolution has accelerated. The Apple TV second generation media streamer tosses the hard drive storage from first generation model. What does it add? Read our review to see for yourself . . . .
UPDATED November 16, 2009 - We have all noticed the proliferation of media servers on the market over the past several years. The problem is, they are quite expensive, usually in the thousands of dollars, and some in the tens of thousands. Well, finally, there are some products that will let you play your music in any of those rooms you want, by ripping your CDs to a music directory on your PC and using a wireless "Streamer" in the room where you want to listen to them. There are several music streamers on the market, including Squeezebox, which has several models. Their newest entry is the Squeezebox Duet, which is the subject of this review.
Please take a particular look at the end of the review where I updated my opinion about this product on November 16, 2009.