In the bad old days of high-performance computer-based audio there was only one way to do things, and it always revolved around a computer. Even the Sony “stand-alone” HAP-Z1ES digital playback system I reviewed years ago needed to access a computer to rip CDs and acquire new files. How about a “stand-alone” digital audio system that is truly stand-alone? A one-box solution where you can rip, store, access streams, and never, ever, connect with your home computer or NAS unless you really want to? Aurender has an app (and a component or two) for that.
The Aurender ACS10 was created to be an almost-complete one-box solution. It’s a stand-alone digital hub designed to interface with an external DAC via a USB connection. Merely add the USB-enabled DAC of your choice and you have an entire digital front end capable of doing virtually anything and everything a computer/NAS/streamer system can do and more.
The Aurender ACS10 is, in essence, a dedicated audio computer. But unlike a general-purpose computer, this one has been optimized for music acquisition, playback, and storage. It uses an Intel CPU that was specifically chosen for its balance between processing power, low heat, and low EMI noise. USB is isolated and filtered and handled on a different board separate from the CPU. Unlike most computers, the ACS10 uses a linear rather than a switching power supply and then couples it to a supercapacitor uninterruptable power supply to stabilize the ACS10 during sudden power outages. The optical CD drive is manufactured by Teac.
Another one of the ACS10’s important technical features is its “2X isolated LAN port,” which is one of three Ethernet ports provided. This port delivers superior isolation from network noise compared to the two other ports, according to Aurender. ASC10’s USB ports are 3.0 spec, so they can allow for the fastest available copying from external USB drives.
During the initial setup I had assistance from Ari Margolis, Aurender’s U.S. technical representative, who also loaned me an iPad to use as the ACS10’s remote control. Installation was simple: Connect the ACS10 to an Ethernet network, open up Aurender’s ACS Manager app on the iPad, and then add all your music file locations so the ACS10 can begin to transfer them to its own internal hard drive. I mentioned earlier in the technical description section how the ACS10 is a “closed” system. It’s “closed” because it plays only what has been brought into its own hard drives (or via a streaming source), with the exception that it will play from a directly attached USB drive.
For the review Aurender loaned me its ACS10-16TB, which has two 8TB drives as well as one 250GB SSD drive and lists for $6000. The ACS10 is also available with larger hard drives (ACS10-24TB at $7500) coupled with greater DRAM memory capacity for additional monetary outlay.