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This review first appeared in the July 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Pioneer N-50 in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Pioneer - Ed.

Reviewer: Jochen Reinecke
Sources: Marantz SA 7001 CD/SACD player, iPod Classic 80GB with Pure i20 dock, ProJect Xpression III with Ortofon OM30 Super
Amplification: Funk Lap-2 and Dynavox TPR-2 preamps, Myryad MXA 2150 power amp, Yarland FV-34C III integrated
Loudspeakers: Neat Momentum 4i , DIY Fostex F120A widebander, Nubert nuBox 101 with AW 441 subwoofer
Cables: AVI Deep Blue interconnect, Kimber 4 VS LS speaker cable
Review component retail: €599

Electronics house Pioneer covers the network player segment with two models of specific appeal. The N-30 and N-50 diverge in circuit and mechanical details but also in connectivity, i.e. what type of sources they support. The N-30’s focus is on streaming—wired but for €70 extra it's available wireless with WLAN, for €35 extra with Bluetooth—whilst the N-50 wants to also frolic in the currently super-busy DAC pool to add relevant socketry and features. Let’s take a closer look at the latter.

Want to hear files on your computer or NAS? Leash up the Pioneer N-50 via RJ45 Ethernet cable to a spare port on your Internet router. With a live web connection that’s how the N-50 also accesses Internet radio stations. To this the machine adds four digital sources. Around back there’s coax, Toslink and async USB digital which turns the Pioneer into a quasi external soundcard whence the computer is used to access the files via a media player of choice rather than the network. The forth input is a frontal USB port for sticks or Apple-type mobile players. iPod & Co. are tapped digitally to move digital-to-analog conversion inside the Pioneer. Not a given either and hence all the more welcome is enough current exchange on this USB socket to offer charge-as-you-play mode which even with the iPad’s thirst for power doesn’t falter. The earlier mentioned Bluetooth/WLAN options apply to the N-50 as well but weren’t part of my review loaner.

So much for inputs. Outputs will require even fewer words: one analog RCA , one each coax and Toslink digital. Time for inner values. Relative to price those read quite upscale on paper. Both streamer and converter work with up to 192kHz data at 24-bit word depth. Streaming is via UpnP or DLNA (1.5) which interfaces the N-50 with the majority of NAS disks, operating systems and music servers without fuss. On Windows the stock Media Player 11 is instant game. If you prefer something else, there are any number of freeware alternatives. I worked with TV-Mobili and the extreme low-consumption Serviio Server which barely taxes the OS. On Foobar’s home page there’s a DLL plugin called foo_upnp.dll which turns that program into a full-blown UPnP server.

The Pioneer N-50 supports MP3, AAC, WMA (each up to 320Kbps), FLAC and WAV (up to 24/192 over the network) and LPCM. If you’ve saved your files to Apple Lossless (ALAC), you’ll be only stumped until you activate ‘transcoding’ in your streaming software. This enables the N-50 to convert such files on the fly into a format digestible to it.