Melco N10 Music Server With Outboard PS10 Power Supply
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!