Melco N100 Media Server – HiFi Review

Melco N100 Media Server – HiFi Review


I have received a review sample of the Melco N100 media server.  It is a very attractive piece of equipment and it benefits, in my view, in being half-sized so it fits well on a hi-fi rack or, in my case, in an IKEA Kallax Bookcase that accommodates, ironically, vinyl records perfectly, as well.

Design

 Melco N100 Media Server The Melco N100 Media Server builds on the N10 and the N1 digital library products introduced by Melco over the last few years.  The Melco N100 Media Server has a 2TB hard disc drive and three USB 2.0 ports, one of which is at the front which is helpful for transferring files to the hard disc library.  The menu system is intuitive and requires no help from the quickstart guide.  The front USB port can be set-up to accommodate expansion drives, backups, restoration and the like.  The N100 is the same size and would fit perfectly with the D100 optical CD ripper that Melco also offers.  The menu system allows this functionality to operate seamlessly.

The chassis of the Melco N100 features their anti-vibration system called HS-S² (Highly Stable Storage System).  This is the same concept as their N1ZS/2A.  This system is obviously designed to minimise mechanical noise.  There is no cooling fan involved here, either.  The N100 comes with a standard transformer led DC power lead but I have been supplied with a Plixir BDC 4A power supply that has 2 outputs, balanced, to deliver a very low noise linear DC power source to the Melco N100.  The Plixir is a heavy block of controlled power and comes in at £850 in the UK.  I also have the new Melco S100 data switch that is also being supplied by the Plixir power supply.

Melco S100

Melco S100 Dataswitch

The N100 is a DLNA/UPnP media server with Twonky Server 8.5, however MinimServer as an optional ‘upgrade’.  Now I am no UPnP master but a quick run through with Dan Reggatt, see this article, enabled me to upgrade to MinimServer UPnP.  See below also for a description of this process.

S100 Audiophile Data Switch

For the review, I also had the Melco S100 data switch, a device to manage data between the router and your audio sources or media server, such as the N100.  The data switch has 4 100Mb slots for Audio use and 4 Gigabit Ethernet slots for other data needs (gaming, video streaming, Roon core, PCs, etc.)

The S100 has a similar chassis to the N100, drawing on the mechanical stability delivered there.  The S100 also has audio-grade capacitors to ensure the lowest noise environment.  The key to creating a stable and resilient data stream for extreme Hi-Res music streaming is the packet buffer technology and the S100 has 1.5MB of buffer capability to deal with erratic external connectivity.  The S100 is priced near £2,100.

Quality

The unboxing experience was a good one, I always like a double box.  The Server itself feels really solid and well made with flush screws holding the box together.  The brushed aluminium panels hide a chassis made of 2mm thick steel.  The overall feel is good, which it should be at this price, the N100 is priced near £1,999.  There is a simple but effective OLED display at the front that conveys your IP address and system statuses, such as connectivity and network status.  All of this can be dimmed or turned off.  When you use the Melco Music HD player to ‘play’ a song from your library, you are effectively needing to send the file to a DAC to play the music and this is a simple enough matter.  In this case, the track name and artist scrolls across the display if it is turned on.

Performance

Setup

Primarily, I have the N100 set-up using the USB  out to the USB B input in an Auralic Vega 2.1 Streaming DAC with an Atlas Mavros cable (with GRUN) between them.  Therefore there is no network router between the source and the DAC, minimising the electrical noise.  This really is exceptional set-up with quality through the range and I’m listening with PMC twenty5 22i speakers driven by the still impressively wonderful T+A PA 2000 R integrated amplifier, I have Atlas XLR cables into the T+A amplifier from the Vega and I can say this is a really nicely matched system here and can really hear the differences generated by the changes I’m listening for with the N100, particularly with the PMC twenty5 22i speakers.

Naim UnitiServe WAV import

My first task was to put some music on the N100 which turned out to be a very simple matter.  I have a Back-up of my Naim UnitiServe on an external Seagate drive and it has over a thousand albums on it as bit-perfect WAV files, as well as my other 24 bit downloads and digital copies from vinyl purchases.  I simply plugged the USB drive in the front of the Melco N100 and using the easy menu system, selected import files.   My 14,000 odd tracks were done on my return an hour or so later.  The only problem with this is WAVs do not embed metadata easily I gather and this is something that has always held me back from a UnitiServe upgrade.  This, I discover, is no longer a problem for Melco users, read on…

SongKong metadata editor

One of the more impressive features of this Melco N100 is the option to install SongKong which is a metadata editor.  This is particularly interesting to someone like me who has a Naim UnitiServe in my house and I have all of my CDs ripped onto it as WAV files, bit-perfect.  However one of the issues with these WAVs is that the metadata is not stored correctly and is not easy to transfer to another system.  However, SongKong is the answer.

SongKong for Melco works best with MinimServer, which is pretty easy to set-up as described above.  SongKong is still effective with Twonky.  SongKong for Melco is available here and is £50.  There is an annual update package.

I ran SongKong through my CD collection using the SongKong online site by simply going into the IP address of the Melco and linking to the website.  Then there were a couple of licence keys and I was away.  I simply ran my entire collection through the site and I was done in 1 hour, 14 minutes and 24 seconds, brilliant.  I only have to do this once too, so once I’m set-up, I’m good.

MinimServer UPnP

Minimserver UPnP is an alternative to Twonky and Melco prefer it for UPnP file handling.  The Melco N100 has an option to download the Minimserver UPnP software and I do this upgrade in a few minutes.  I then need to rescan the database so that the music is in order, then you’re away.  I have to say I’ve found it very accommodating with both Bluesound and the Auralic App and the artwork handling has been first-rate.   I can say I abandoned Twonky for the remainder of my time with the N100.

Melco N100Melco N100 USB to Auralic Vega G2.1 USB B

Using the N100 with the Auralic DAC couldn’t be simpler.  With Minimserver and using the Melco N100 USB output to the DAC, the sound is as good as it can be, it is spine-tingling.  I’m using the Melco Music HD App on an iPad to push the file to the DAC which can really cope with anything.  The Melco App, on my iPad, is excellent and it affords me access to Tidal, Qobuz and many of my music files stored on OneDrive, I note Dropbox is there too.

Melco Music HD App

How does it sound?  Well, simply wonderful.  You are going to need good copies of your favourite music, for example, Radiohead’s The Bends sounds poorly presented/mastered in my view but a good recording, like A Moon Shaped Pool, by the same artist is terrific.  As I mentioned in my PMC twenty5 22i review my emotional reaction to hearing one of my favourite records, The Numbers,  delivered really well by this system was spine-tingling.  It has the rhythm and pace that I expected with a heightened level of atmosphere.

Separately I have a download of A Deeper Understanding, one of my favourite albums, and this plays through the Vega G2.1 really cleanly too.  Really the Vega is such a good partner for the N100, handling all formats thrown at it, networked or direct.

Networked Melco N100 source

The Melco N100 has been a consistent and excellent performer throughout this review period

Using the Auralic streaming DAC and their Lightning DS App with the Melco purely as a Media Library.  I get similar crystal clear results and the interaction is smooth and effective. I’m minded to think of my own server a Naim UnitiServe library.   It is the same concept but has a CD ripper built into it.  Am I going to switch?  Well, of course, the problem is money but I would certainly choose to start with the Melco if it were there over 6 years ago, which of course it wasn’t!  However, with such a lot of Naim equipment in my house, it suits me to keep the Unitiserve, I just have to try and forget the uplift in quality I may get from the Melco.

Using Bluesound Node 2i with Melco N100

Again, the library is very easy to access and the Bluesound OS is so easy to use you have no fears about compatibility here.  I had to reindex the album library in BluOS on accessing the Melco Server but this was handled in about 45 minutes with 14,000 tracks or so.  The artwork is pristine.  The Melco N100 has been a consistent and excellent performer throughout this review period.

Overall

I love it, I want it and I need it and that surely makes it an Editor’s Pick

The Melco N100 sounds great, it is a fabulous media storage server and it minds me to feel it is the perfect digital storage source (if you have the right library of course).   The Android style nature of it offers you the flexibility you may need in future-proofing your music library, unlike some media servers.  There is no doubt in my mind this is the go-to music server of choice.  I’m looking at buying this one for use with the site going forward especially as I have all of my artwork indexed beautifully by SongKong.  I can transfer this elsewhere in its shiny reformatted version at any time.  I love it, I want it and I need it and that surely makes it an Editor’s Pick.  The first one in our new hifiandmusicsource.com format.

Love

Simple to setup

Simple to use

Perfect sound with a decent DAC

Like 

Style

Understated look

Wish 

Nothing I can think of

Specification

From the site, here.

Model N100-H20 (Silver) / N100-H20B (Black)
EAN N100-H20: 4589636030361
N100-H20B: 4589636030378
Color – Silver, Black

Capacity   HDD 2TB x 1
Size   215x61x269 mm
Weight Appx   3kg
Terminals USB2.0 type A Front x 1 Rear x 2

Gigabit Ethernet port x 2

Power supply DC 12V (48W AC adapter)
Support file (Server) DSF, DFF, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, MP3, WMA, OGG, LPCM
Support file (Player) DSF, DFF, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, AAC
Sampling rate (Server) 44.1K, 48K, 88.2K, 96K, 176K, 192K, 384K, 2.8M, 5.6M, 11.3M
Sampling rate (Player) 44.1K, 48K, 88.2K, 96K, 176K, 192K, 384K, 2.8M, 5.6M, 11.3M
Bit rate 16-32bit (PCM), 1bit (DSD)
Accessories – Quick Start Guide, USB2.0 cable, Category 6 Ethernet cable, AC adapter

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