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Today’s Show:

Pioneer Elite N-30 Networked Audio Player

The HT Guys love music and when a product comes along that lets us enjoy it, we want to take a look. The Pioneer N-30 is just such a device. It’s a networked device that lets you listen to your favorite music whether it’s on a computer, iPad, or on one of over a thousand Internet radio stations from around the world. The N-30 will have a MSRP of $499 when it becomes available. At the time of this writing we could not find available from the usual outlets.

Setup

Setup is super simple but you do need network access. In our case we have a physical Ethernet port but don’t worry if you don’t. Pioneer has a wireless adapter (AS-WL300) that plugs into the back of the unit. We found setting up the wifi kind of convoluted. You have to connect the wifi adapter to a PC and connect it to the wireless network then connect it to the N-30. The setup screens on the N-30 are very basic. Our testing was done with a hard wired Ethernet connection.

The unit has Optical and Coaxial outputs for digital audio as well as left and right RCA connections. You can connect the N-30 to an amplifier/receiver or a set of powered speakers.

Performance

Since the N-30 supports a digital output we wanted to listen to the highest quality music we had. In our case that was 256Kbps AAC, which to most is indistinguishable to the original CD. There are a couple of ways to stream the music over to the N-30. First the N-30 is DLNA 1.5 certified so if you have a computer that supports DLNA you are good to go. Second the unit supports Apple’s Airplay so you can send your music over from your iPad, iPhone, or iTunes. The front of the unit has a 2.5 inch color display that shows album art and other information about what’s playing. Its a nice touch, but in reality, unless you are close to the screen you really can’t see what’s on it.

The listening results were pretty amazing. But to be fair, we were listening to the music on some pretty nice KEF Speakers. Regardless, the music sounded fantastic! The N-30 recreated every nuance of the classical music we listened to as well hard pounding sound of Van Halen. We even listened to some techno music with a heavy bass track that allowed us to FEEL the music. In all we were quite pleased with the sound.

The N30 also allows you to listen to Internet radio stations. Here the quality of the music is dependent on how much data is in the stream. A station that sends out its stream at 64Kbps is never going to sound as good as even 128Kbps mp3s. There are literaly thousands of stations out from all over the world. If you can’t find something you like, its because you stopped looking.

Odds and Ends

Pioneer has an iOS and Android app for control of the player. You can use the app to see what’s on your server and make your music selections. If you are using Airplay, there is no real reason for the App. There is also a Bluetooth adapter that allows you to send music to the device from your smartphone.

Conclusion

The N-30 is a nice device that bridges your digital library and online radio stations with your home theater. But with many companies, Pioneer included, making much of this functionality available on mid-range receivers, one wonders if people would rather spend the $500 on upgrading their receiver instead of buying this device.

Download Episode #515


Posted by The HT Guys, January 26, 2012 11:19 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.