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Pioneer N50 Network Music Player Review

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With the new N50 Network Music Player, Pioneer has given us another fantastic piece of technology that is definitely worth checking out. It will connect a device like laptop, smartphone or computer to your hi-fi system, enhancing your listening experience.

Here we have a Network Audio player/Streamer/USB DAC. You can enhance the quality of the usual digital formats up to the high fidelity standards, connect it to your iPhone, iPad, iPod or any other smartphone, access your iTunes library or connect it to your PC. It also has an option to do all this through a Wireless connection, so you can sit back, relax, and not worry about jumping over cables. The only thing is, it doesn’t come with Wi-Fi capabilities, you have to buy the  the Pioneer AS-WL300 wireless network adapter and spend some extra money.

It is absolutely solidly built, with inputs and outputs on the front and back panel, a display and a remote control. The sound you will get from the N50 Network Music Player is amazing, partially due to the fact that it has twin EL transformers – an analog and a digital one, meant to  better block external interference and help create a true and authentic listening experience. The armored chassis helps reduce vibration and gold connectors preserve the quality of sound reproduction.

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Figure 1: gorgeous rear view of the N50 – it even comes with digital inputs (coaxial + optical) so you can use it as a high-end DAC as well!

On the back of your N50 Network Music Player, you can find a pair of analog RCAs , where you connect this handy device to your hi-fi system. In case you’d want to use an external DAC, you also have a pair of S/PDIF outputs, capable of 24-bit/192kHz output which plugs into the rear “DC Output for Wireless LAN” for power. As for the inputs, on the rear panel you’ll also find a 10/100 Ethernet port that enables you to connect it to your computer, laptop, external hard drive or some other storage device.  There is also a pair of S/PDIF inputs and a “Digital In / USB” that enable you to play back up to 24-bit/192kHz files.  There is also an “Adapter Port”, for connecting the  Pioneer AS-BT200 Bluetooth Adapter – also comes as an extra feature that costs extra money – that will allow you to  stream music via Bluetooth. And finally, the AC input to connect the included AC cord (you can also use your own, if you feel like tampering with the sound a bit).

On the front of the N50 Network Music Player, you’ll find, of course, the power switch, an “iPod/USB” input, and five buttons including Function – a source selector – and four playback controls. An important part of the DAC is the 2.5-inch full-color LCD display that will show you the current connection source, device name, and the sample rate when idle. During the playback,  you’ll be able to see the track title, album artist, album title, the album cover art, file type, sample rate/bit depth and duration/time elapsed.

The device’s  Music Server – Ethernet –  and the USB input will play MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLAC files and nothing else, so you might find this a bit limiting. On the other hand the Asynchronous USB DAC input will enable you to overcome these restrictions. It is easy to use and connect, doesn’t come with too many cables, and will surely offer you a listening experience that not many people have – hearing music from your computer in high fidelity.

Pioneer has also made an app called “Air Jam”  that allows anyone else who can attach to your Wi-Fi network to add songs from their  device to a playlist that is shared and can be played from the shared Play List that’s playable from the N50 Network Music Player.  It also has applications for Android, iOS, iPhone and Blackberry, so there is no fear your device might not be compatible with the N50.

All in all, the N50 Network Music Player is a handy, useful device every audiophile should have – at least if you don’t want to fiddle with setting up your own server. The only down side is that some of the useful features – like the Wireless or Bluetooth connection – come separately and cost extra money.

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