9000N gets a move away from Play-Fi and is based on an exceptionally good and well tried streaming platform.
The 9000N’s main control app provides quick, easy access to fully integrated services such as Tidal,
Qobuz, Spotify and TuneIn Radio, with a superbly intuitive yet feature-rich interface that makes
browsing a pleasure. Intelligent search functions and the ability to create multi-source playlists, group
albums and organise folders create a personalised experience that allows the user to discover, sort and
play their music however they prefer.
Impressive though it is, the 9000N’s dedicated app is not the only way to stream. Tidal Connect and
Spotify Connect permit direct streaming from within the Tidal and Spotify apps, and any UPnP/DLNA
app – mconnect or BubbleUPnP for example – can be used to control the 9000N. The provision of
AirPlay 2 is handy for users of Apple devices and the 9000N is also Roon Ready, able to slot straight into
a Roon audio environment and work seamlessly with Roon streaming software.
Hi-res audio support is state-of-the-art, handling PCM up to 32-bit/768kHz and native DSD up to
22.5MHz (DSD512) no matter how one streams to the 9000N – Wi-Fi, Ethernet cable or USB. Every
significant hi-res and lossless audio format is catered for, including FLAC, Apple Lossless (ALAC), WAV
and AIFF, alongside native DSD in DSF and DIFF form, as well as DoP (DSD over PCM).
MQA – the hi-res streaming technology, as used by Tidal’s ‘HiFi Plus’ tier – is comprehensively supported,
with full decoding/upsampling of MQA files right up to the format’s highest 384kHz specification. Full
decoding means that the full ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to only
the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’. Alternatively, if the 9000N’s digital outputs are used
to connect an external MQA-supporting DAC, MQA ‘passthrough’ or ‘core decode’ may be selected – the
former allowing full decoding and the latter rendering by the connected DAC.
Listeners can opt to upsample lower resolution PCM streams to 352.8kHz or 384kHz, or select between
five DAC reconstruction filter settings, thus tuning the sound to suit the source material. This is
particularly useful given the variable quality of digital formats and streaming services.
Left The 9000N’s leading-edge
streaming technology delivers sonic
excellence and a consummate user
Audiolab’s audio know-how
The 9000N packs impressive processing power under the hood. A quad-core Arm Cortex-A53 chip forms
the streamer’s ‘brain’, ensuring swift, rock-steady operation and additional benefits such as album
artwork caching for speedier loading. But no amount of processing power can redeem a streamer that
lacks the ‘audio smarts’ to deliver the sonic goods. Audiolab has drawn upon decades of class-leading
audio design to ensure the 9000N offers an exceptional sonic experience, making the most of the highend streaming technology that nestles within.
DACs from ESS Technology’s excellent 32-bit Sabre family are now used by many manufacturers, but
none rival Audiolab’s experience of designing circuits with these chips. The company was an early
adopter of the groundbreaking ES9018, released in 2009 and famously used by Audiolab’s classic
82000CD and M-DAC components which launched the following year.
Since then, Audiolab devices have featured successive generations of Sabre chips, culminating here with
the ES9038PRO – a preeminent DAC from the top tier of ESS Technology’s current range. The DAC’s eight
channels are fully utilised in stereo configuration – four for the left channel, four for the right – to
eradicate noise and distortion, accompanied by proprietary Audiolab circuitry including an ultraprecision master clock. This makes the most of the chip’s HyperStream II architecture and Time Domain
Jitter Eliminator, delivering a remarkable signal-to-noise ratio and exceptional dynamic range.