Music Server Advice

I’m an analog guy moving up the digital path and I’m asking for some help from my AGon colleagues with my next move. I currently use an Intel NUC/Rock to run Roon feeding an Esoteric D-05x. It really sounds good! If this sub $700 NUC sounds this good, I’m keen on discovering what can be had in the $4K to $7K range (New or Used) to replace the NUC/Rock. (I’m not letting go of the D-05x!) I’ve used Roon since its inception but I’ve tried other apps from time to time, most recently the Aurender App as well as Innuos, JRiver, and Audvirana.

Recently owned/auditioned:

Aurender N10 - Loved the sound, hated the App (to be fair I was comparing to Roon)

Innuos Pulse - Lots of detail no soul. Couldn’t listen to very long, fatiguing

Auralic Altair G1 - Mid Fi. traded in for Esoteric/added NUC Rock

Under Consideration:

- Go back to the N10 and get used to their app

- Aurender N200...get used to their app

- Antipodes...

- 432evo

I’m open to suggestions!

Digital: NUC/Rock - Esoteric D-05x - Esoteric F-05 - Wilson Sohia.

Listen to 95% Jazz.

Appreciate all responses in advance!

Ag insider logo xs@2xcommunique1

I got the impression the last time I talked to Aurender that they are done with enhancements to Conductor 3 and are working on 4 

After Dark has a new server coming not listed yet on their site though some information can be found at AudioPhileStyle and for those whom home brew their server devices After Dark are offering a pretty interesting product line they develop in-house .

I have had Innuos Zenith, Evo 432 Aeon , Rockna WaveDream Net including a couple other server streamers my current home brew edged all of them out performance wise at a third of the price though I’m pretty sure I’m going to try the After Dark offering when it hits the market next mouth .

@in_shore Could you share your secret sauce that beats out Evo 432 Aeon? From what I gather home brewed solution doesn't have the custom software as 432, Grimm and others do. 

As an early adopter of Roon, with a lifetime subscription, and one who enjoys having multiple Roon endpoints, I have steered away from Aurender.  But the word about their Roon integration is intriguing.

I now have the Grimm MU1 and love it.  It replaced both my Nucleus+ and my Aries G2.1 and sounds fantastic. So much so that I am considering a second MU1 to use as a second endpoint only, an update that Grimm says is coming this year.

Aurender going with Roon will just complicate my brain!  Would the top Aurender best the Grimm as both Server and Streamer?  Then I could use my existing Grimm as the second endpoint!

I had an absolutely wonderful weekend listening to music. The N200 has surpassed my expectations and has allowed me to enjoy classical/orchestral music for hours on end. In fact, practically the entire weekend was spent listening to my favorite composers! I found myself not fiddling with apps and listening to works in their entirety...with a big grin on my face. I didn't even miss the turntable (Hope not to anger the analog gods!) To me, this is what it's all about..the music! I can only imagine what The Grimms and Playback Designs of the world bring to the table. But this is rabbit hole I'm not going least not yet!

@communique1 The N200 is the best bang for the buck on the Aurender line, congrats! IMO the N20 and N30SA are even better than the Grimm, so if ever the time comes that you are itching to upgrade, talk with your Aurender dealer to see if there is a path to do so. I offer this for many of my customers who want to start with an N200 and work their way up to the N20 or N30. 

Also, the certification timeline for getting Roon on Aurender is on Roon. They are working to meet Aurender’s requirements, which is why Aurender cannot be certain on a completion date. It will likely not be at least for another 3-4 months. 

“Would the top Aurender best the Grimm as both Server and Streamer?”

After listening to MU1, I can say MU1 is not in the same league as N20 and N30SA. 

The N20 clearly excels in terms of low frequency extension and slam. Based on my listening impressions, the N20 a step or two above in terms of transparency and coherency. The MU1 is good but for me, N20 offers lot more and one may prefer over another based on downstream DAC and personal taste of the sonic signature in the context of rest of the system.

Thanks @lalitk ,  I guess I did not want to hear that!  But as they say, once you have heard it...

Curious how you will compare (if you play it) Roon vs Aurender App when Roon is available on an N20. Could it be you prefer the Aurender App over Roon sound?

And is the W20SE Better?  Just the battery implementation? Which is top dog Aurender?


Time will tell how Roon implementation will sound compared to Conductor app. Based on my interactions with Aurender chief designer, they will try to keep the signal as faithful as possible to original bits. That’s been a hallmark of Conductor app. As far as W20SE vs N30SA, it’s a matter of personal preference. I do plan on comparing the W20SE vs N30SA in a month or so and keep what sounds best to my ears. Both streamers will be slaved through my Merging 10MHz master clock. 

I had a Grimm in my system a couple weeks ago. While it is a good sounding unit it was not competitive with mid and upper tier Aurrender. I thought the Grimm had a very good midrange but came up short on the upper end… not being as refined and had a lean bass. 

@ghdprentice I agree. I think the Grimm is a different flavor from the N20, for example, with the N20 having more density, richness, slam and refinement and the Grimm being dryer and thinner. I haven’t compared the W20SE or W20 to the Grimm, but I know the W20SE you have is even more refined than the N20 and my N30SA is both refined while being more dynamic and resolving than the N20.

Did you or @lalitk play with the Grimm’s oversampling settings much?

@ghdprentice ​​​​@blisshifi , Hello!  So when you are comparing these streamers are you comparing Roon on the Grimm vs Conductor on the Aurenders? Not picking on your assessment just wanting to understand the comparisons.  I have not played with the Grimm oversampling settings, but using what is recommended to me.  I love the MU1, and it is better than the Aries G2.1 and runs Roon Core so quite a bit simpler.   With the MU1's future software update, it could be one of my servers, with an Aurender being the other.  Then I would choose one of them to run Roon Core.  Where have you purchased your Aurender products?  I would wait for Roon certification, but am anxious to hear one in my system!  And of course which Aurender???  Thanks for pushing the envelope!

@fastfreight I am actually an Aurender dealer, though I purchased my N30SA prior to becoming a dealer. Happy to chat options if you have interest. I’ve provided services and sales to a number of folks in this community.

To surpass the Grimm, the N20 will deliver the most bang for your buck, but depending on your budget, the W20SE and N30SA will deliver added performance. The N20 as you’ve read, will deliver more slam, weight, density and organic delivery. The W20SE is battery powered internally and delivers an added level of refinement and benefits less from audiophile AC cables, but many claim it is not as dynamic as the N20 or N30SA. The N30SA builds on the N20 by being a two-chassis beast, separating the digital signal from the power supply and display. It is more resolving and more dynamic than the N20. There are definitely diminishing returns along the way, as the $12.5K N20 is about 30% better than the $6300 N200 (but that’s a notable difference), whereas the $25.5K N30SA is I would say 10-15% better than the N20. I have less experience with the W20SE

When I compared Aurender and Grimm, I used Conductor vs Roon. There wasn’t really any other option. FWIW, what I have heard from the Aurender team, their tests with Roon have concluded that the Aurender units sound better using Conductor than Roon, but perhaps Roon will continue to optimize before they complete certification. It will at least be great to have Roon compatibility for convenience and still have Conductor for critical listening.

I have tried all sorts of cabling and with Aurender I prefer AES. This is because their units have excellent clocks, with the N30SA having a 10MHz Rubidium clock, and my T+A reference DAC will additionally reclock the incoming signal. The result is a more natural, smoother sound. I’ve found I prefer this interface, even if it can only do DSD128, vs USB up to DSD512 (my DAC can also do DSD1024). USB sounds more thinner, overly detailed and fatiguing in comparison. I do have interest in trying the Final Touch Audio Sinope USB, though I have tried a few other USB cables over double its price. Using USB, you don’t reap the benefits of the Aurender’s internal clock.


Thank you @blisshifi .  excellent synopsis and spot on to my interests.  I will be very interested in auditioning one of these Aurender units once they are Roon certified.  I am currently running AES from my Grimm into my Tambaqui..



Comparisons between the Grimm and Aurender in my system were Roon for Grimm and Conductor for the Aurrender. I doubt that has a significant sound effect. My experience is that it is the hardware that matters. Also, I used to own an Aurlic Aries G2… I concur both the Aurrender and Grimm are much better sounding streamers.

I use the AES output on my Aurender W20SE and the USB output on my N100. Switching between the two on my main system… when using my Audio Research CD9se DAC and a Berkeley Alpha Reference DAC showed little difference in sound quality but the determinate will be the quality of the DAC / streamer… in some combos USB may sound better… but typically AES will sound better. .

Lucas Audio Music Server.  Give Lucas a call on What's App.  Phenomenal server and customer service.  It elevated the sound in my system immensely and that is with a Lampi Horizon DAC.

“with the N30SA having a 10MHz Rubidium clock,”


I don’t think this is true. N30SA uses a high quality OCXO internal clock.

To answer your question about oversampling, I am not a fan. I prefer my digital bits in their native resolution. To my ears, oversampled files sounds artificial and adds unnecessary distortion. Each time I tried over sampling, the results have been inconsistent. My DAC allows me to stream upto DSD256 over Ethernet and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are always going to be those who prefer upsampling based on their setup and personal preferences. I rather pay for a native high resolution file then fiddle with on the fly upsampling 😊

@lalitk You're totally right -- I'm mixing up the N30SA and the MC20 (facepalming myself). Thank you for the correcting my mistake.


No worries. Now, it wouldn’t have been nice to get an upgraded clock module in N30SA then just the aforementioned upgrades with two chassis. From what I can tell, you get the same PCB board & clock as in N20. I wish I didn’t have to choose between N30SA and W20SE. My ultimate setup, W20SE for DK and Norah and N30SA for Stevie Ray Vaughan 🤣

Just found this thread- awesome information regarding Grimm and Aurender. Thanks people 🙏

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