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This is the tenth in a series of reviews dedicated to the concept of 32Ohm Audio as embodied by the store of that name in downtown Portland/Oregon and described here - Ed.

This review first appeared in the October 2009 issue of hifi & stereo magazine You can also read this review in its original German version. We translated it through a syndication arrangement with our German colleagues. 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 or Archos. - Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
Source: Fonel Simplicité, Audiomeca Obsession II, Wadia 170i Transport & Apple iPod & Benchmark DAC1 USB
Amplification: Pre/power - Myyrad MXA 2150, Funk LAP-2.V2; integrated – Fonel Emotion; Abacus Ampino Rieder
Loudspeakers: Thiel CS 3.7, Sehring S 703 SE
Cables: Low-level - Straight Wire Virtuoso; high-level - HMS Fortissimo, Reson LSC 350
Review component retail: €399.99 Archos 7, €99.99 DVR station
High-end portable? Hard disk music is undoubtedly an interesting subject. Depending on how one approaches it, it can become bona fide high fi. For those not on a nickname basis with their PC, it could also be a rather confusing proposition. Dealing with various audio formats, optimized CD rips, the assembly of a well-organized music library and strange terms like tagging and DRM could seem a bid forbidding. But it really doesn’t take programming skills. It's mostly a matter of engrained habits and developing new ones. Besides this psychological barrier, the real lead foot on the brake seems to be the hardware question. Not everyone dreams of adding an extra server or—yawn—wants to strap her office PC to the hifi system via USB.

Our earlier Wadia 170iTransport und Apple iPod review described various options to integrate a hard disk with the stereo system. Its solution of docking station and portable music memory seems to be a particularly elegant solution with true high-end sonics if the external D/A converter is of the necessary quality. This puts a new spin on the transport/converter theme.

Today’s review subject goes by the name of Archos 7 and is marketed as an Internet Media Tablet, a mouthful that shouldn’t deter us. Combined with the optional DVR docking station, it’s somewhat similar (but not exclusively for audio) to the Wadia/Apple duo though remaining differences could be exciting to the right customers.

Concept & functionality: The most obvious—and depending on portability needs, not unimportant—differences are the physical dimensions of 190 x 110 x 16mm WxHxD and 640g weight. This nixes the jeans or jacket pocket and is less than tailor-made for the jogger although I occasionally do spot the fully committed runners in our Berlin parks who strap extra weights to arms and legs. Such training fiends might want two Archos 7s…

Distracting on the move, the 7-inch 800x480 pixel touch screen becomes a real boon for integration with the home hifi. Artist, album and track info should remain intelligible across a 2.5 – 3 meter distance for most eyes. Before we get into details, let’s spell out the core notion of this review, i.e. the specific Archos 7 application that's of most interest to the audiophile. Here it is relevant that the Archos 7 deals confidently with even large music collections. Our tester was fitted with a 320GB hard disk—€100 less buys 160GB—which stores roughly 600 albums in WAV or 1000 in FLAC (which contrary to WAV tags without hiccups). For many, additional storage via external memory won’t be necessary but is possible of course.

The Archos 7 can act as client or network player via WLAN and communicates on the standard UpnP universal plug and play basis, albeit on the slower 803.22nb/g speed which is plenty sufficient for audio applications. This allows audio streaming as a music server. But back to straight hard-disk playback. Contrary to Apple’s iPod (which more and more components can now access digitally), the Archos enables digital connection without licensing bullocks. It does not require a Wadia 170i type add-on to be audiophile-approved.

The optional €99 DVR station adds remote control and a keyboard to scroll through the library, shift menu layers and type in names such as during artist searches. An internal D/A converter sits aboard the DVR which also acts as dock and sports an S/PDIF output to feed an external DAC. That latter move to a dedicated converter is pretty much mandatory with any portable device and not an exclusive necessity with this Frenchman.