A network streamer for less than five hundred British pounds? With Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity? Plus: analogue and digital outputs? The obvious (if dated) choice is the Sonos Connect whose breadth of streaming service integration is unsurpassed but whose sound quality is found wanting when sat next to more recent rivals such as the Bluesound Node 2/i, Volumio Primo and the (now discontinued) AURALiC Aries Mini.
Throwing their hat into the Sonos Connect-rival ring this week is Audiolab whose 6000N Play streamer will join the 6000CDT CD player and 6000A integrated amplifier as part of the British company’s more affordable 6000 series — see header image.
The 6000N Play connects to a home network via Ethernet or (dual antenna) Wi-Fi connectivity for audio streaming from other LAN sources (a UPnP/DLNA-loaded NAS, Mac or PC) or cloud-based services. Hi-res audio support takes in PCM up to 24bit/192kHz.
Those already in possession of an external DAC can connect it to the 6000N Play’s coaxial or TOSLINK output. No USB here.
Those without an external DAC can pull on the Audiolab streamer’s internal decoder – a 32bit Sabre 9018 chip from ESS Labs – to feed an integrated amplifier or pair of powered loudspeakers. Readers are reminded that ‘The Sabre Sound’ only exists on forums and that a good-sounding DAC circuit is far more than its decoder silicon; power supply quality and output stage also matter.
Back to music playback. Whilst the aforementioned Bluesound, Volumio and AURALiC units each run on an in-house coded software base to additionally integrate Roon, Audiolab has opted for the DTS Play-Fi platform that offers multi-room integration with similarly compatible hardware.
The Play-Fi app (iOS/Android/Kindle) integrates Tidal, Qobuz or Deezer (for lossless fans) and Spotify (Connect), Amazon Music or Pandora (for everyone else). Notable by its absence is Apple Music. A full list of compatible services can be read here.
Audiolab’s 6000N Play streamer begins shipping in May for £450. Your choice of black or silver.
Further information: Audiolab