Melco Audio N100 Review

Music and the way it is being consumed by the end user has changed and especially over the last decade with so many people now getting their music via online music services and the demand has grown considerably which is driving the demand for products from the High End audio industry, making them adapt in many ways and offer better solutions for us all to enjoy this wonderful hobby. To be honest it is a win win situation as the industry is booming and what we get is a better quality and overall experience with good quality music and cheaper products and that also filters down from the higher end audio companies to us. Melco Audio comes from a computer industry background as it is part of the huge Buffalo HDD and IT solutions company. When you think of computers and HiFi the two generally do not offer the best quality as there is so many variables that can affect the quality of sound from a PC and the transportation of your music files, most notably noise and how it affects the quality of sound is what plagues a computer from all the components that go into PC's but Melco Audio is the HiFi purist side of Buffalo and they take it very seriously indeed and that is why their products have been a huge success with many audiophiles.

This is my first introduction into the world of Melco Audio having owned other streaming systems from the likes of Aurender and reviewed a few including the brilliant dCS Network Bridge and Rossini systems so have a bit of experience on what makes good HiFi when it comes to these music streaming boxes, power is one of the most critical parts of a good device and can also make or break a system too, luckily Melco Audio have this covered.

Features and build quality

The N100 has a steel and aluminium chassis which is weighty and feels very solid and the unit I have is finished in black but silver is also available but it matches my Cyrus Audio components perfectly as the chassis is the same width. The front of the unit has a nice digital display which looks and works really well, with big scrolling bold text for what track and artist is playing and when you get to my age bigger is better as my eye sight is not what it used to be, a power button and USB input is all that is on the front of the unit. At the rear you have another two USB’s one of which is used to feed your connecting DAC and also two Ethernet ports, one to connect to your LAN and the other for connecting to a network player should you wish to use it. For my review purposes I am just connecting the LAN and USB to my DAC. It also has a 2TB HDD built in which I have preloaded with high resolution audio files. You can use the N100 as a stand alone player without the need for a network and use just the HDD for music playback but I have NAS drives which contains most of my music files, you can also add a CD drive which Melco Audio sell and an add on HDD which would push the price up but at 2TB it is plenty for what I need. All of the magic goes on inside the box, which is why the N100 has an audiophile grade power supply which is electrically silent and built with one purpose of feeding a steady and stable voltage. All the software is hand written by a specialist team in Japan purely for the purpose of music and nothing else. The music data structure is clocked just like the ones built in to high end CD players.

If you are fortunate enough to own an iPad then you will have access to Melco Audio’s own HD Music Player available from the App store which unfortunately is not on Android, but a UPnP app will allow you to control the music from an Android device. It works extremely well with very intuitive UI and controls, Qobuz and Tidal can also be controlled via this App and I am using Qobuz with mine. With the latest firmware 4.10 it is now also Roon Ready so if you wish you can control all your devices and DAC’s via Roon software. It just needs reconfiguring in the unit to turn this function on and is very simple to do.

The N100 is very slick in its operation when going from different HDD and not just the internal one, it is a fan less device so it is silent when running. Qobuz works seamlessly on the App and it is certainly the easiest to navigate that I have used. For this review I am using it with my Cyrus Audio 82 DAC Integrated Amplifier and my ProAc D2R speakers which are all wired out with Chord Cables.

I absolutely love the challenge of connecting new kit up but Melco’s online manual is extremely intuitive should you get stuck, I jumped straight in and connected up without looking at the manual and I have to say I did quite well with the on screen menu’s on the N100 which is very easy to navigate and find the settings you need to get it singing, the only time I needed to look at the manual was when I wanted to get Roon up and running but once figured out it’s a breeze to turn on and off. With the hard work done I can now relax with some music.

Performance and Sound Quality

My tastes in music is varied as some of you may know if you have read any of my previous reviews and I love to try new and different artists from the past and present. My first album is from a new artist to me anyway and this is an album I found on Qobuz but liked it so much that decided to purchase it, Nicholas Michaux is a Belgium singer and songwriter and his latest album Amour Colere is a beautifully performed and written album which sounds so good with a relaxing and laidback sound to the tracks and the N100 manages to portray this really well but with a solid sound with great imaging and depth to the soundstage. He sings in both English and French and both sound magical with the French maybe sounding a little more sophisticated as the words flow more eloquently together. The N100 manages to capture this artists unique sound with a very convincing performance, bass is perfectly pitched and the mids and treble have an airy sound with Nicholas placed just off centre stage. Track 1 Harvester has a great bass line which is solid in presentation while his vocals are accompanied by a beautiful guitar riff. While the Qobuz version sounds extremely good the digital version that I have saved to the internal HDD of the N100 sounds better with a more open sound and slightly improved soundstage with better depth, while slight it is noticeable and makes the track and album more enjoyable. Track 3 Enemies is one of my favourites from this album with great vocals and again some good guitar riffs and synthesised sounds which conjures up memories of music from the 80’s era which was some of the best times. 

Stepping up a few gears and time for Santana, I always feel that his albums really can show me how well a system can perform and I have loaded on a high resolution version of Caravanserai sampled at 24bit 88kHz, Track 2 Waves Within has the usual brilliant percussion instrumentals with the N100 proving how well it streams these higher resolution tracks with superb imaging and depth to the music, instruments placed all over the soundstage and beautiful crisp sounds and guitar playing from Carlos Santana really does sound quite wonderful when in full flow. Track 5 Song of the Wind has some epic guitar playing and drumming which is presented perfectly it seems as though the higher the resolution the N100 delivers the goods with such a coherent and well presented soundstage that it seems hard to believe that this music was recorded so long ago albeit this album was remastered in 1999 but still I hear recordings bang up to date that don’t have anywhere near the same quality in sound. The dynamics and transient shifts in the sound is quite stunning with this album and I’m hearing such great details that I have not noticed before such is the level being dug out by the N100 player. Track 9 La Fuente Del Ritmo is an incredibly complex track with so much going on in the sound stage that any lesser system might struggle to keep up and I am seriously impressed by what I am hearing, the sound stage is full of instruments playing in perfect time, this level of refinement and composure is hard to beat and so is the pleasure that it brings.

My third album is by the brilliant Donal Fagen and Kamakiriad sampled at 24bit 96kHz, I also own this on DVD-Audio and have listened to it on many systems so know the music well and this has to be one of my favourite so far, the brilliant Melco Audio N100 seems to extract so much detail from the music and high resolution tracks. It just keeps getting better the higher up the resolution chain you go, it is an excellent achievement that I put down to the way in which it handles the data and the files which it streams to my DAC, with a lack of noise and distortion that can corrupt the data when fed normally from lesser systems and it clearly has an audible benefit to the sound which is greatly improved. Track 8 Teahouse on the Tracks sounds wonderful with the piano and percussion sounding so precise and natural and when the Trumpet starts playing with such amazing clarity. After listening to this I immediately switched to the 24bit 192kHz version of Nightfly and am totally smitten by the sonic attributes and quality of the Melco Audio N100 which really is a star performer when it comes to high resolution audio

On to my last few albums and streaming via the newly enabled Roon feature of the Melco Audio N100 after the 4.10 firmware update. Once again using my iPad with Roon remote loaded on to it and my PC being the core of the software it gives a seamless operation with full control over the music you want to play through the N100 and any other DAC or device should you wish. I purchased the newly released Late Night Tales - Jordan Rakei album and it sounds stunning in 24bit 44.1kHz recorded so well with the N100 proving yet again how important it is to have a quality source in your system. Also playing the brilliant Melody Gardot album The Absence in 24bit 96kHz which sounds sublime with stunning imaging and detail retrieval from this high res version.

Track 6 Impossible Love being my favourite such a great piece of music with shimmering cymbals to harmonica’s and orchestra all beautifully arranged and Melody’s angelic voice, does it get much better than this, music stirs the soul for many and at the heart is the N100.

Conclusions and final thoughts

As you can tell I absolutely love what the Melco Audio N100 has been able to achieve in my system and how my system has benefited from this top tier music streamer. Audiophile grade music is at your fingertips, with a brilliant user interface and software which works seamlessly and is faultless in its operating it manages to dig out so much detail in music to a level which is truly magical and leaves you totally satisfied with its performance. Highly recommended !!

Price at time of review £1,999 RRP


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