Sonore microRendu Ethernet to USB Streamer Review 
Home Theater Accessories Acoustics, EQ & Room Tuning
Written by Andre Marc   
Tuesday, 23 August 2016

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.

Sonore microRendu

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.


 

Set Up

From unboxing to installation, I had music streaming to the microRendu in ten minutes flat. Set up included plugging in a Rosewill Cat 7 ethernet cable, the power supply, and running a USB cable into the Simaudio 280D DAC.  Then I called up the microRendu on my Mac Mini’s web browser in my office, selected DLNA, made sure there was a connection to the Simaudio DAC, and that was it. Running in the background on the Mac Mini was MiniMServer, and BubbleUPnP, which allowed me to use the nifty Linn Kazoo iPad app for control of my 10 TB library. Also included in the chain was a SOtM Lan Filter (I highly recommend a LAN filter).

The rest of the system consisted of an Aric Audio Expression tube preamp, an Onkyo M5000R power amp, and Magnepan MMG speakers. Cables were Wireworld all around. Everything was plugged into an Audience power conditioner. The 10 TB library is housed on G-Tech drives attached to the remote Mac Mini.

A quick bit of history. In this system I have had numerous streamers. A brief sampling includes the Simaudio Moon MiND 180D, the now discontinued SOtM sMS-100, multiple Marantz models and, going way back, a Squeezebox Touch (a true classic). All performed very well, and a few were undervalued in my opinion. A few had their quirks, and varying degrees of setup ease.

Sonore microRendu

Performance

To get right to it, the Sonore microRendu is the highest value, best performing, and purest sounding Ethernet to USB file streamer I have encountered in this system. The level of sophistication, the quality of the imaging, and the overall transparency is simply beyond reproach. I’ve seen chatter about DIY solutions that have the potential to equal or better the microRendu, but in direct comparisons, to my ears, this is wishful thinking.

Across my usual broad spectrum of music, the microRendu had excellent tonal balance, a “reach out and touch it” realism, and a way of presenting every recording with great depth. I had never heard the Simaudio 280D sound this good, and mind you, it is a superb sounding DAC, but like every other digital source component, the better it gets, the better gives.

Sonor microRendu

Streaming most of the discography of Jade Warrior, the legendary progressive art rock band, was pure bliss. The band called upon Eastern influences and experimental rock to create expansive soundscapes that the microRendu recreated beautifully. The albums have been very well remastered for CD, and the streamed FLAC files had a very nice analog like quality to them. Albums such as Floating World, Waves, Kites, Last Autumn’s Dream, and their self-titled masterpiece from 1971 were addicting, and I had a hard time shutting the system down!

I shifted gears slightly and called up numerous Robin Trower tracks from the several Chrysalis Years box sets, all mastered well, with plenty of punch. Trower’s guitar was molten lava, and Jemes Dewar’s bass and vocals were placed perfectly in the soundstage, as I remembered back in the day. I was very taken with the way the microRendu preserved the heaviness of these recordings, and intensity of the bluesy psychedelic vibe. Albums like For Earth Below, Victims Of The Fury, and In City Dreams were transportive.



During the end of the review period, the news of the passing of legendary jazz vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson came. He was an innovative and brilliant composer, and I called up some of his masterful early work in tribute. Albums like Spiral, Medina, Montara, View From The Inside, and Waiting are a kaleidoscope of jazz, funk, world music, and soul that sounded fresh and via the microRendu. The complex arrangements were easy to follow, and the coherence the microRendu brought to the table was on display.

Taking full advantage of the microRendu’s capability, I streamed a ton of 24/96, 24/192, and DSD files. All played back without a hitch, and the sonic results were as expected. Steven Wilson’s Yes, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson 24/96 remixes sounded spectacular, with nuances in the mix appearing with impressive clarity. The Analogue Productions remix and remaster of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here was another stunner. David Gilmour’s guitar and Roger Water’s bass had excellent presence and body.

After about a month, I switched over to the Roon protocol, simply by downloading and installing Roon on my Mac Mini, and switching over to the Roon app on the microRendu. The last piece of the puzzle was getting the Roon app for the iPad Air. My overall impression is Roon was slightly superior to DLNA sonically. It was not a landslide, there was just a bit more refinement to my ears. This may be due to the way Roon supposedly simplifies the audio chain, as many claim DLNA is a complicated protocol. I stuck with Roon, and continue to use it.  

Ergonomically, the microRendu is a digital music lover’s dream. It never dropped from the network, was super responsive, and recognized my DAC immediately. With the iFi iPower the unit ran a bit warm to the touch. With the SOtM battery supply it was slightly above room temperature. Not at all a concern, but it should be given a decent breathing space. Other than that, there are no other issues when using this wonderful device.

Sonore microRendu

Conclusion

The Sonore microRendu is a game changer. Period.

It will allow customers to enjoy performance, that was previously the domain of far more expensive file players, for $640 plus the power supply of your choice. Just an additional $50 and you can use the iFI 9V iPower. You can spend more too, your choice. It should be noted that Uptone Audio is soon going to release their UltraCap LPS-1 power supply for the microRendu. It is an advanced design is supposed to come in at under $350, final price to be determined.

The microRendu, design goals have been met with spectacular success. Namely, a headless, stripped down device with all the fat trimmed, and the highest quality components that could reasonably procured. The small elegant case is all that is needed to house the carefully selected internals, which deliver bit perfect audio at the proprietary regenerated USB output. If one is seeking streamer for a networked library that works with DLNA, as a Roon endpoint, or with several other configurations, and that passes through every known file resolution and format, this is it folks. A no brainer, hesitation free recommendation.


Specifications


Sonore microRendu: $640 + power supply.
http://www.microrendu.sonore.us/

Review System 1


Preamp: Aric Audio Unlimited
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Simaudio 760A
Speaker:  Bryston Mini T
Cables:, Wireworld, iFi
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Bryston BIT-15, Salamander rack

Review System 2


Music Server: SOtM sMS-100
Preamp: Aric Audio Expression
DAC/Streamer: Simaudio 280D w/MiND
Power Amplifier: Onkyo M5000R
Speaker: Magnepan MMG, Spendor S35R
Cables: Wireworld
Accessories: Cable Pro Noisetrapper, iFi iPower, Audience aR6






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