Pros: Easy to use, excellent range of audio outputs, compact size, great value.
Cons: documentation not perfect
I have a large CD collection and no CD player (apart from the drives on my PCs) and as a result I haven't listened to some of my music for a long time. It's been sitting in boxes with me raiding to do the odd rip. Last time I looked at devices to integrate my CDs into my digital collection the prices were way beyond my means, so I was really surprised to see what looked like a capable piece of kit at an affordable price. I bought the X10 without a HDD as I had a decent 3TB available for use.
the power adapter
a USB cable
a bit of documentation
What I added
A 3TB HDD
a downloaded CD database
The physical HDD install is tool free and very easy. It took a couple of minutes to fit. Once in the HDD formatting was straightforward and didn't take too long either. The manual said a CD database was included on a disc but I didn't have one so I downloaded it via the Cocktail Audio website and installed it via a USB stick, again very quick and easy.
Once this setting up was done I added the X10 to my home network via a standard cat5 network cable (wireless is possible with an optional USB dongle). With a couple of tweaks it appeared as a network device and a media device.
Final set up involves choosing the ripping format and quality. I went for FLAC and the highest quality settings, well if you've got 3TB to play with, why not?
Ripping CDs is very easy. Stick them in, press a couple of buttons, add cover art if you want and there you go.
Results so far 35 Albums ripped, the vast majority perfectly. So what are the problems with the tiny minority?
- Some cover art was not found. Cover art can be sought from several sources, though I've only ever managed to get any from "allcdcovers" with no joy using the other choices. It's possible to search your own network for images so I may be able to add this later.
- Three discs were not correctly recognised. When the disc info comes up, but doesn't match your disc, you can scan through a list of other possibilities. In my case I found two out of the three were listed and selecting these gave me the correct details. One disc remained unfound.
- Three tracks didn't rip. This is probably disc damage, I'll try ripping using my PC and post results.
Playing the music
So far I've tried two options: using the headphones socket and playing from my PC over the network.
The Headphone output is fine. It's a 3.5mm socket and has enough power to comfortably drive my Ultrasone Signature Pros but I don't think it could manage anything too demanding. The sound isn't at all bad and provides perfectly acceptable listening.
Playing via PC is a doddle. I use foobar as my player of choice. I added the X10 to my database in foobar and then the search works fine. I used the same headphones to listen to the same tracks via Schiit Bifrost Uber and Lyr. It's no surprise that this set up sounds significantly better, it would be odd (and unnerving) if the X10 outperformed the Schiit combo, I'm impressed that it's as close as it is.
There are a couple of other ways to play I haven't tried yet: speakers and directly into the Bifrost via optical. I'm not worried about speakers, I haven't got any and I'm not looking to change that so I'll leave others to test this. I will run it directly to the Bifrost, in fact I'm unlikely to run headphones directly from the X10 in any case. As all my digital music sits on NAS, and the X10 can access the NAS, I could easily have the X10 as my player front end and listen without switching my PC. I have a friend who is seriously considering this as a one box digital music solution with no PC at all. If that's the case, you can also add music via USB from a stick or external drive, it'll even allow you to play internet radio.
If you have a lot of CDs and want to get them into your digital music system, or you want a stand music system that takes the hassle out of managing all you CDs then this could well be the answer you've been looking for. I'm about 5% through my CD collection and I'm not looking back.