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September 2019
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply
Enveloping sound that activates all my audiophile senses!
Review By Tom Lyle

 

Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply Review

 

  By now, the music server shouldn't be a foreign concept to most audiophiles. When servers first began to be a part of our digital front-ends, all that most audiophiles wanted and needed were designers to provide a convenient way to play their music files. Since then, enough research and development have gone into designing and building music servers that there are now plenty of options available at many different price points. Today, the name of the game is sound quality. Melco has upped the ante by providing not only a perfectionist audio module, but one that has its own outboard power supply connected to it in order to increase the level of sound quality.

Melco, a Japanese company that has been making high-end audio components since 1975, has entered the US market at a particularly good time, offering networked audio components that build on their reputation, but that also, according to Melco, "incorporate the very latest research into reliable high-performance networked devices and storage." Melco's N10 is a half-rack size component that has a storage capacity of three terabytes (3TB). Its identically sized PS10 linear power supply can be placed next to the N10, or the components can be stacked. Each is housed in an aluminum case; the N10 has an OLED display on is front panel, while, the power supply has only an indicator light. Each is built on a steel chassis, to provide internal integrity and control vibrations.

 

The Front Panel
In addition to an OLED display, the N10's front panel has four control buttons to make its initial setup quite easy — all that's needed to get started is to select the language and time zone. Choosing even its most advanced customization options is made simple with these front-panel controls, which can also be used to browse through its contents. Music files are loaded through one of the N10's rear-panel Ethernet or USB ports. For convenience, the N10 also has a front-panel USB port, into which one can insert a USB or USB optical drive, to import or play files directly. The N10 has two rear Ethernet ports: one can be connected directly to a network player or streamer without requiring any additional devices to optimize sound quality.

 

Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply Review

 

Its other Ethernet port is for a LAN connection, to be connected to a router for music transfer, control of the N10 via a control app, or for accessing streaming music services, downloading music, or making firmware updates. Melco also has its own control app: and is compatible with UPnP control apps such as mConnect, Bubble, Kinsky, and others.

 

Connecting
Connecting the N10 to my system was simple. After I'd connected it via Ethernet to my router, my network's IP address was displayed on the N10's front panel. I then connected a hard-drive loaded with music directly to the N10's rear-panel USB port. Melco's N10's USB output was connected to an EMM Labs DA2 digital-to-analog (DAC) converter. Currently, I use either a Mark Levinson No. 523 full-function preamplifier or a Nagra Classic Preamp line stage, connected to a Pass Laboratories X250.8 stereo power amplifier, which in turn drives a pair of Sound Lab Majestic 545 electrostatic speakers. The Sound Labs are advertised as "full-range" speakers — nonetheless, I augment them with a pair of SVS SB16-Ultra subwoofers. All interconnects, speaker cables and power cords were Wireworld's top models, still connected from my recent world premier review.

All the front-end components were connected to a Goal Zero Yeti 400 battery power supply, and the remaining gear to two dedicated power lines running directly into our home's basement circuit box. The listening room is treated with acoustic treatment panels, and the walls are painted with Sherwin Williams "Sky Fall" blue indoor acrylic-latex.

 

Simple
First, I connected three cables to the Melco N10: power, USB, and Ethernet. Listening to the Melco N10 and its power supply was made even simpler because the distributor had already set it up for use, including loading some music on its HDD. In addition to these files I loaded some of my own music with a memory stick via the front panel USB port, and by directly connecting a hard-drive to its USB input.

 

Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply Review

 

Listening
When making quick comparisons between the Melco N10 set up and my computer-based music server, the increase in sound quality was immediately apparent when listening to the N10. I don't think anyone would need such an advanced digital processor as I used to test the Melco gear. Just for fun, I substituted the near state-of-the-art EMM Labs DA2 for a Benchmark Media DAC3 HGS. The Benchmark converter is a great DAC that I have recommended to many audiophiles that I feel as though I should receive a payment from Benchmark! But let's be real, the EMM Labs costs eight times as much as the Benchmark DAC. No, it isn't eight times better sounding, but it does sound better in many important areas. Yet the Melco N10 still sounded better than my music server, which is no slouch. (I use a very powerful computer tweaked for listening to music.)

The astounding detail I heard through the Melco N10 contributed to this system's very lifelike sound. And no, I didn't think it sounded very lifelike "for digital" — it sounded very lifelike, period.

 

Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply Review

 

One of the first traits I noticed about the N10's sound was its explosiveness, evident in the sheer power of its rendering of dynamics and its depth-charge low-frequency response. Albums such as the 24-bit/96kHz version of Led Zeppelin's live set How the West Was Won entered my listening room not only as I could imagine it being played back by Jimmy Page through the studio monitors, but as a voyage back in time to Los Angeles in 1972, sitting in the best seat in the house, on the side of the stage being able to clearly hear the massive PA system, the band's backline, and the stage monitors.

And then, just for kicks, I loaded the 24-bit/96kHz files of out-takes from the album Coda, which was recently made available as an extended version with more twice the number of tracks. The track Bonzo's Montreux appears twice on this album, the second version isolates the drum tracks. To hear John Bonham's drums with only his overdubs added was quite a treat through the Melco N10! I had the volume cranked, and hearing the results of the methods that Jimmy Page used to record the drums, by placing the microphones not only around the drum kit, but also throughout the recording venue, reproducing the percussion with exactitude, and with an exaggerated power that just sounded plain old cool. The Melco N10 was able to make this recording of John Bonham's drums sound ear-splitting even though the preamplifier's volume was at a low setting.

 

Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply Review

 

This music server's explosive dynamic response combined with its extended frequency response seemed to make the sound of the drums initially pass through my body before it hit the rear and side walls of my listening room. I love it when the sound of my system is able to envelope me in sound, but at the same time activates all my audiophile senses, hearing the recording mimic reality, as well as the artistic fantasies created by the recording engineer and producers.

But the above description might not give one a mental picture to what I was hearing, and so perhaps me explaining what I heard when I played the Charles Munch DSD file of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique with his Boston Symphony Orchestra. I must have heard this RCA "Living Stereo" recording hundreds of times. But never like this. These days, my system is fully tweaked — it's never sounded as good as it did during this audition period. I believe this is largely due to the inclusion of the Goal Zero Yeti 1000, a more powerful battery power supply that I recently installed, With my power amplifier plugged into this relatively high wattage battery pack I felt as if I was always hearing the full potential of my system, regardless of the time of day, and even when all my neighbors were running their air conditioners full blast!

 

Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply Review

 

Symphonie Fantastique's final two movements, March To The Scaffolds and Dream Of A Night Of The Sabbath sounded astounding. No home stereo can reproduce the sound of a full orchestra playing full tilt, and for that we should be thankful. In many ways, a great system acts as an attenuator. I'd rather not hear a lifelike reproduction of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's horn section playing full blast in my listening room. Besides the possibility of hearing damage, it might injure me in other ways. Yet played through the Melco N10, this file provided me with the gestalt of the sound of the orchestra.

When attending a symphony seated in the best seat in the house, and also, as it turns out, when listening to this Berlioz piece through the Melco N10, it is a meditative experience. The ability to render each instrument, and each section of instruments into discrete parts seemed to be second nature to the N10. And so, during the course of playing of Symphonie Fantastique, I would first turn my attention to one section or solo instrument, then back to the velvety strings, then to the raucous and ominous percussion of March To The Scaffold. Then I would remind myself to gas up the car — and be snapped back to attention when the horns entered with lifelike blat and blare. You get it. Sort of like meditating. And so, the Melco N10 and its power supply enabled me to forget about everything else other than the music. Expertly reproduced.  

 

Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply Review

 

Dedicated
I sincerely hope all audiophiles have the chance to hear what a dedicated music server can sound like in their systems. Those who know me know how devoted I am to analog playback, but that I also spend lots of time listening to digital sources. Still, I've never been able to get as excited about digital as I've been with the Melco N10. Yes, last summer's addition to my system of the EMM Labs' DA2 digital processor improved digital's standing quite a bit. In my listening room the Melco N10 promoted digital's rank, its sound has also made it much easier to enthrall me in an audiophile experience.

Although I got the best sound by playing high-resolution files, my music library is largely comprised of "CD quality" 16-bit/44.1kHz files, many burned from my CD library. It has been said by some that CDs barley squeak by as an audiophile source, yet the Melco N10 made these files sound their best, to the point that I often forgot whether I was listening to my digital front-end or analog front-end!

 

Music
As standalone music servers go, the Melco N10 is pricey, but not nearly as expensive as others currently on the market. There are music servers with more features than the Melco, such as the ability to connect a monitor — and many can display metadata on their front panels. But for that you'll definitely pay more, and perhaps even much more. However, if your main concern is sound quality, it is highly unlikely that you'll hear anything better than the Melco N10 with its matching PS10 power supply unless you spend much, much more.

 

Tonality

Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Moving magnet and moving c
Models: N10P-H30-E (silver), N10P-H30B-E (black), N10P-H30A (silver)
Capacity: 3TB HDD
Terminals: USB2.0 type A Front, two Rear, and two Gigabit Ethernet ports
Files Supported (Server): DSF, DFF, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, AAC, MP3, WMA, OGG, LPCM
Files Supported (Player): DSF, DFF, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, AAC
Sampling Rate (Server): 44.1kHz to 11.3M
Sampling rate (Player): 44.1kHz to 11.3M
Bit Rate: 16 to 32 bit (PCM) and 1 bit (DSD)
Accessories: Quick Start Guide, USB2.0 cable, Cat 6 Ethernet cable,
Dedicated 5-pin DC cable for Head unit - Power supply unit connection
Warranty: Two years parts and labor.
Dimensions: Head unit 215 x 61 x 269mm
                 Power supply 215 x 61 x 273mm
Weight: Head unit ~3.5 kg
           Power supply unit ~ 5 kg
Power Supply: Dedicated liner power supply unit, Input N10-H30-E
                    N10-H30B-E for 240V and N10-H30-A for 120V
Price: $7499 with power supply

 

 

Company Information
MMelco Syncrets Inc.
21-2, Shikawa 1-chome,
Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Japan

Website: www.Melco-Audio.com

 

USA Distributor
Luxman America
27 Kent St. Ste 105A
Ballston Spa, NY 12020

Voice: (518) 261-6464
E-mail: info@luxmanamerica.com 
Website: www.Luxman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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