Five hundred dollars doesn’t go far in the world of high-end audio. It will get you some high-performance cable, an entry-level moving-coil cartridge, or one Sonos music player. And if $500 doesn’t go that far, $50 gets you even less—maybe a couple new LPs or high-resolution downloads. But what if I told you that you could buy an Internet-savvy player for under $60 ($59 MSRP, $44.21 street) that can remake any analog receiver, preamp, or stereo system into a device capable of playing any Internet radio stream, most streaming music services, or almost any music file located on your network-attached storage device (NAS). Well, that is exactly what the Muzo Cobblestone can do. With both WiFi and Ethernet connectivity the Muzo offers “late adopters” a way to enjoy the latest in Internet music interoperability.
The digital heart of the Muzo Cobblestone is a Wolfson WM8918 DAC chip. While the original Cobblestone supported only up to 44.1kHz PCM files, the current version, A31, can play up to 96/24. Formats supported include MP3, WMA, ACC (ACC+), Apple lossless, FLAC, APE, WAV, and ALAC. The Cobblestone does not support the DSD format, or PCM files with resolutions above 96/24.
The Cobblestone does not have any digital outputs. The only output you will find is a 3.5mm single-ended mini-stereo analog connection located on its back. The Cobblestone’s other con-nections are an Ethernet LAN port and a mini-USB power connection.
The front/top of the Cobblestone has the only physical controls, which comprise three buttons—one for moving to the previous track, a second for play/pause, and the last to skip forward to the next track. All other controls for the Cobblestone can be found on the Muzo Cobblestone app for iOS and Android devices. This app offers a myriad of features, which I’ll discuss in the ergonomics section of the review.
Connecting the Muzo Cobblestone to a system is easy and relatively painless. You have two options, wired via the Ethernet connection or wireless via WiFi. For WiFi you need to use a system that supports the 2.4GHz band instead of the higher-speed 5GHz band. I chose a wired connection for most of my review, but I did try wireless to check ease of setup. The first step, after connecting and powering up the Cobblestone, is to install and then activate the Cobblestone app. After adding a device via the opening screen, you will need to supply your network password and, once that’s done, the Cobblestone will be connected to your network and will see network-connected devices such as your network-attached storage (NAS). The only tricky part of the initial Cobblestone setup is that if you want to use a music library located on a NAS drive you will need to have a music server or music-sharing app such as Twonky running on your NAS. Both Synology and QNAP NAS drives come with Twonky already installed, merely waiting to be activated.
Setting up streaming services was also a snap—all that was needed was my username and password and Tidal was up and running. IHeart radio was the same—all that was required was password and username. Tunein radio was even easier to set up since it required no username or password. It took me less than five minutes to add my seven favorite stations via the app’s search function.
Once set up, the Cobblestone proved to be robust and reliable. Occasionally it would not find a musical selection on my NAS on the first try, but on the second try it always connected properly. Even sudden power outages had no negative or lingering effects.
Since the Cobblestone has only an analog output, it will connect to the rest of your system as if it were an analog source—any line-level analog input connection will do. Once it was connected, I turned the volume control setting on the Cobblestone app to full level and controlled the overall system output from my system’s volume settings instead of from the Cobblestone. You could also set up your system so the device controls the volume level if you wish.