Every music lover strives for control over their music collection. For some, this means arranging vinyl records alphabetically and by genre. For others, it’s meticulously organizing, tagging, and storing digital music files. The Aurender A100 ($3,900) is a network player, streamer, and music server with 2TB of internal storage space with the goal of giving you complete control over your digital music collection and the way that you listen to it.
The A100 is best controlled through the Aurender Conductor application, available on iPad and Android devices. Within minutes I learned the layout of the app, and all of the necessary controls were located where they should be. To determine if the Aurender A100 really does provide a new level of control, I’ve spent the last four months living with it. Come along as I fully explore its capabilities.
Description and Design
The Aurender A100 is a fanless custom computer, housed in a sleek and rigid aluminum enclosure that feels like it will stand the test of time. It really does look and feel like a solid slab of aluminum straight from the future, and its looks are matched by its rock-solid stability.
The hardware inside has been custom made by Aurender to have the lowest possible noise floor. Its designers paid special attention to power delivery, with three separate linear power supplies providing power to the various subsystems. AKM’s best-selling 4490 DAC feeds the symmetrically designed analog RCA outputs.
Along with the 2TB hard disk drive, a 120GB solid-state disk used to cache the music files immediately before playback. This caching approach is unique to Aurender, and it is their preferred method for playing back digital audio files with the highest possible sonic quality.
Sound and Performance
The extended length of time I spent evaluating the A100 gave me the opportunity to pair it with five different amplifiers and four pairs of speakers. Throughout all the gear changes, the attributes of the A100’s sound quality were still evident. It has a neutral and balanced presentation, without any frequencies being unnaturally accented. This ruler-flat response allowed the musical information to speak for itself.
Some DACs can sound clinical, bright, and sterile. The A100’s DAC never did, but it rode a razor-sharp line—going right up to that point without crossing it. If you value transparency and cleanliness, the A100 won’t disappoint.
Aurender Conductor App
I tested the Conductor app on both an iPad Mini and a Samsung Galaxy S8. Both platforms offered equivalent functions, but it was clear that the additional screen real estate of the iPad Mini was a better fit for the app’s layout and graphics. I quickly became accustomed to using the app to enjoy my music, and it spoiled me. Conductor reminded me why I finally accepted streaming music. I was a vinyl-only and then CD-only audiophile for many years, and now my only regret is not starting to stream sooner. Now I gravitate toward streaming because of how fun and easy it is to find new music.
The Conductor app, running on the iPad Mini, offered a logical and intuitive layout for accessing both the local music library and streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal. It made the process of searching for new music quick and effortless. Regardless of the source, all tracks get queued up on the master playlist that resides on the left side of the screen.
On my Android-based Galaxy S8 phone, the app has the full feature set but in a more condensed layout. I found navigating it was equally as intuitive as the iPad version, but overall the iPad felt more polished. However, I give accolades to Aurender for supporting Android devices as not all manufacturers do so. They’re also open to hearing suggestions for improvements and fixes and work rapidly to implement them. This shows me they’re dedicated to enhancing the app and making it better.
The Conductor app was rock-solid for me on the iPad Mini and was a pleasure to use. The interface was laid out thoughtfully, and most importantly, it was snappy and responsive.
As I think back on my long-term evaluation of the Aurender A100, nothing objectionable about its performance comes to mind. I think that speaks to the appliance-like reliability of the A100. I had it running 24/7 playing music on painfully hot summer days and nights, to the point where the outside of its aluminum enclosure was physically uncomfortable to touch for longer than a few seconds. Despite it being hotter than a two-dollar pistol, the music never stopped flowing and the device never shut down. The engineering prowess on display here is admirable.
Thanks to the well-designed Conductor app, I discovered the A100 accomplishes what it set out to do: grant you a new level of control over your music. While it does offer convenience and good sound quality, the price of $3,900 seems a little steep. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide if this level of control is worth the asking price.
Product: Aurender A100 Network Music Server and Streamer