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Sonore microRendu Music Streamer impressions

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by mikeyfresh, May 5, 2016.
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  1. MikeyFresh
    This audiophile-grade micro computer utilizes a custom motherboard void of all items not necessary for ultra high quality network audio streaming. This purpose built device pays careful attention to critical design elements such as the power supply, in a super small/lightweight and unobtrusive form factor, measuring about the size of a deck of playing cards.
    Powered by 6-9 vdc, the performance is said to scale up well with better external PSUs, offering flexibility and an easy future upgrade path as budget permits.
    A single Ethernet input is paired with USB output for connection with high-end external DACs.
    Five different user selectable output modes include everything from SqueezeLite, DLNA, OpenHome, MPD, RoonReady, and more. Easily and quickly configured via the Software Manager.
    The SonicOrbiter operating system is also optimized for music streaming. Lean/mean and Linux based, it's easily and quickly set-up/configured from any web browser and requires no further fiddling (set and forget) and resides on an included microSD card which comes pre-loaded in the front panel slot, requiring no end-user intervention or maintenance.
    Some smart phone photos (please pardon the image quality) from the unboxing yesterday:
  2. MikeyFresh
    I am using this unit to finally replace my aging and compromised from the start Apple Airport Express/AirPlay streamer solution. Pretty cool in 2006, not so much in 2016.
    A recent intermediate step using the ChromeCast Audio offered an upgrade from the AE's 16-bit/48kHz upper limit. The CCA if configured as a DLNA renderer using BubbleUPnP is capable of playing 24/96 .WAV files, however I found the sound quality uninspiring and the implementation a bit of a kludge not to mention limited to Toslink output.
    There is also the specter of Google eliminating that CCA functionality via a future firmware update that the end user is powerless to prevent. Google seems hell-bent on preventing local file playback of any kind, insisting they know it's best for us to stream everything from their cloud, which is crap and 100% useless to me personally.
    So back to the drawing board it was, and I patiently waited for the Sonore microRendu to be available.
    I'll skip to the conclusion, the mRendu trounces either the Airport Express/AirPlay, or the CCA as DLNA renderer by a country mile and half in terms of sound quality. NO contest at all, a completely different animal used with lossless files and DSD (.dsf) downloads.
    Not that I was surprised, but this is really a whole different league and I've likely not reached the mRendu's full potential yet in pairing with the iFi iPower 9v PSU, and for the moment the Ethernet source is actually the Airport Express, still in the chain but now only acting as a WiFi Ethernet bridge.
    I've so far had ZERO dropouts, glitches, or other anomalies playing back PCM up to 24/192, and DSD64, with the mRendu connected to the Fast Ethernet jack on the Airport Express (AirPlay now shut off but the AE admirably still performing yeoman's duty all these years later).
    I'm a noob to high-end streaming, I always viewed the AE and streaming in general as a convenience feature. I now see the day of diminished disc player use, as I increasingly buy hi-rez downloads instead of SACD/DVD-Audio media, and I really like JRiver's media server controlled by iPad or smart phone in streaming files to the mRendu, and ultimately the iFi iDAC2 connected to my actual HiFi system rather than my computer/desktop set-up.
  3. Bangash
    Thanks for starting a thread on the microRendu.  Out of curiosity, what DAC/s did you use with microRendu?  
    I have the Sonicorbiter SE, not as high-end as the microRendu.  I believe they both use the same software though. SOSE was easy to set up and works flawlessly.  The Sonicorbiter SE replaced an i-5 laptop tweaked with Fidelizer 6 and Jplay streamer.  Easily bests them as far as sound quality is concerned.  The field of computer audio is moving really fast and who knows what next year will bring.  But, for the moment Sonicorbiter SE and microRendu may well represent the best-value-for money options available.  
    I'm using the SOSE in conjunction with Regen and the Dragonfly 1.2 DAC.  I tried to get the SOSE to work with GeekOut450 and wasn't successful.  Too many pops and crackles.  Perhaps the firmware on the GO450 DAC wasn't up to snuff.  Anyway, I'm thoroughly enjoying the sweet music pouring out of my Schiit Vali2 amp and Sennheiser HD600 headphones.  Immersive and addictive, using the SOSE as a Roon-ready device.  For a reasonable outlay this may be the best desktop option out there.  
    My impression is that microRendu needs a bit more of an infrastructure to bring out its best: linear PSU, really high quality DAC and an upsampling player like HQP.  Would love to hear how people are using microRendu and SOSE in their systems.
  4. MikeyFresh

    So far the only DAC I've used is the iFi iDAC2, because it supports native DSD with no need for a DoP "wrapper".
    That said, I will at some point also connect the LH Labs Pulse SFi, and maybe for kicks try the Geek Out 1000 too.
    Or, if LH Labs would ever get their act together and build/ship my Vi DAC Tube unit, I'll skip right past the Pulse.
    I'd bet the same is true for both the mRendu and the SOSE in terms of your mention of bringing out it's best, a linear PS and a good DAC will take it up a few notches for sure, with the SOSE just not to the ultimate performance ceiling of the mRendu according to Sonore. But you can still tweak/upgrade the SOSE.
    I don't subscribe to the need for an up-sampling player like HQ, not a knock on it of course as I've never actually used it, but the iDAC2 designer thinks leaving files at their native sample rate is the way to go and I tend to agree. Using JRiver for local file playback I've tried it's DSD64 and DSD128 up-sampling feature, and although interesting, I don't find it to be the panacea that some folks describe, and the same being true with the LH Labs DACs, I like using the native sample rates and the proprietary digital filter options for PCM on both the iFi and LH Labs DACs.
    Circling back to the mRendu and SOSE, I agree with your notion that they may well represent the best value out there right now at any "reasonable" price point. The forthcoming SOtM sMS-200 looks pretty cool too, but I'll stick with Made In America HiFi anytime I'm given the choice.
  5. MikeyFresh

    On the subject of partnering pieces, I picked up a Supra Cat8 Ethernet cable last week.
    I'm certainly no cable skeptic having heard it for myself many times over the years with everything from analog interconnects, to digital cables, power cables etc...so I thought there would be at least some difference between the Supra and a good quality L-Com Cat6 cable I had been using.
    The difference was larger than I was expecting, the Supra cable improving dynamic contrast to the point of sounding like someone had turned up the volume control, and also yielding a larger (mostly taller) stereo soundstage/image. These were not tiny difficult to listen for differences.
    Exactly why this is I'm not sure, as connecting to the network via WiFi through the Airport Express means there really is no wired network contributing electrical interference to speak of, the only connected piece is the Airport Express.
    Yet another case of everything matters, though certainly other's mileage may vary, and no one can exactly quantify these differences either in numbers like "% sound quality increase", or "return on $ spent", etc... thats for each individual to assess and estimate personally.
    But before I buy a long run of the somewhat pricey Supra Cat8 to install Ethernet in that room permanently and ditch the AE, I'll probably give another brand a try, most likely the BJC Belden bonded pair Cat 6 or Cat6a.
  6. SleepyOne
    Just join the club too - mine arrived today. Still waiting for my linear PSU so can't test it yet sadly :frowning2:
  7. Bangash
    What sort of linear PSU are you planning to use?  I've got the iFI 5vdc, not linear but sounds fine to me.
  8. MikeyFresh

    You shouldn't use the 5vdc version of the iPower.
    The mRendu accepts anything from 6 to 9vdc, so to use an iPower with it you need the 9v version.
    Or were you referring to using iPower with the SOSE?

  9. SleepyOne
    I am waiting for my 7v Paul Hynes SR3 psu with silver wiring. The voltage 7v at 1 amp (minimum) is recommended by John. 9v is ok too but sonore get warmer.
  10. Bangash

    Actually, you're right.  I'm using the 5vdc with the SOSE.  When I get the microRendu, I'll probably get a 7v linear PSU.  MicroRendu seems to respond well to high quality PSUs as I've learnt. 
  11. MikeyFresh

    Nice, please post your findings with the Paul Hynes supply, it's on my list of potential upgrades.
  12. SleepyOne
    Will do when it finally arrives. From what I read it needs long break in so it will just have to be interim impressions I guess.
  13. motberg
    pretty nice review here, and some basic introduction that may help push network greenhorns (like me) into giving this a try... 
    I will be watching how users get it working with HQ Player...
    My guess is there are a lot of folks that would be interested in the functionality, but do not have a home network setup that this would plug into easily though....
  14. Gordian
    LPSU makes a massive difference over the regular ifi power at 9V.
    - with the ifi psu, uR is a good source,
     -with a nice LPSU, uR is simply superbe. Give it a try and let us know
  15. MikeyFresh

    Which LPSU are you using?
    I'm excited to see the "mystery" lifted and details now available on the UpTone Audio LPS-1 which will be compatible with the microRendu, as well as various other devices.
    UpTone are now shooting for a July shipping date.
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