In 2016 network file players and streamers are king. This is because just about everyone who has done comparisons has found that mass produced, consumer grade, off the shelf computers are not state of the art, by any stretch. There are those who still pay for premium playback software, cripple non essential functions, tweak with expensive power supplies and isolation devices to try to wrangle the best from their laptops or desktop machines.
The amount of frustration often seen expressed on online message boards is astounding. Users become exasperated with disruptive commercial operating system updates, hardware incompatibilities, and a whack-a-mole approach. No surprise they often to turn to multiple layers of software, so called “digital” power conditioning, and even further out there solutions.
If one has a large digital library, and especially a library with more than one system to feed, a networked digital library is an absolute no-brainer. There is simply no argument for keeping noisy hard drives in the listening room. Nothing good can be going on with their cheap power supplies polluting the waters, and the RFI/EMI issues they are more than likely creating. This simply not up for debate.
For digital file playback, clearly the stripped down network streamer is the belle du jour. Most high-end manufacturers making digital front ends have one in their lineup, and the list is growing. Some allow for playback from USB storage devices for convenience, some include onboard WiFi, but most include Ethernet for a robust network connection. My Bryston BDP-2 allows for removable storage, NAS and remote library streaming, numerous playback modes, multiple digital outputs, and compatibility of any current format.
Earlier this year, Sonore introduced the microRendu Ethernet to USB streamer. It was several years in development, has some unique design characteristics, and is priced at an amazingly affordable price of $640 without a power supply. Power supplies start at $50 for the iFi iPower, with numerous other choices increasing in price from there. I received my microRendu in June. I did not need a power supply as I had on hand both a 9VPower and a SOtM mBPS-d2 battery power supply. I used both during the course of this review.
I decided for this review to describe the user experience and sonics of the microRendu rather than to dissect the technology. That is because the design team and internals have been covered in great detail on other web sites and forums. For a comprehensive overview of the people involved, the parts quality, and technical details, I urge readers to check out this entry over at Computer Audiophile.
That being said, a few key points should be addressed. First, Sonore uses an in house designed motherboard in the microRendu. This is virtually unheard of. Secondly, it includes the highly advanced, regenerated USB output to insure your DAC gets the highest quality data stream. There is no onboard WiFi, so networking is done via a carefully implemented Ethernet input. The microRendu was designed with the intent of making it as plug and play as possible. Lastly, and hugely important, the microRendu runs on the Sonicorbiter operating system, an elegant smooth interface that allows for switching between applications easily, and makes for headache-free operation.