Setting Up and Using the microRendu and Signature Power Supply
The microRendu takes no shelf space at all if you follow the recommendations and plug it directly into the USB Type B connector on the back of your DAC. The larger power supply ships with no power cord, but a Cardas power cord is optional. A cable (also by Cardas) which connects the power supply to the microRendu is provided. Sonore supplied a USB Type A-to-Type B adapter to connect the microRendu to the DAC. This adapter replaced a USB cable, and is only an inch or so in length. It’s said to sound better than a USB cable, so that’s what I used. Although the microRendu only weighs 4.8 ounces, Sonore recommends you support it when it is connected via the USB connector so that its weight doesn’t strain the DAC’s USB Type B input. What you use for support will depend on the individual DAC. When I used the low-slung Mytek Brooklyn DAC, I found that a single CD case was the right height to support the microRendu. Most of the review was done with my PS Audio DirectStream DAC with the Huron operating system installed; there, the USB connector was higher above the shelf surface, so a stack of three Herbie’s Audio Lab Iso-cups turned out to be the perfect height. The support is up to your ingenuity and what you have available. An Audience Au24 SE LP powerChord, designed for powering digital components, connected the Signature Series power supply to the wall. Inexpensive but excellent Blue Jeans network cables, recommended by Sonore, connected the microRendu and other network gear to my home network.
The first microRendu I tried was DOA, so back it went. The second worked fine. The set-up process for the microRendu is somewhat unusual; after it’s connected to the power supply, the network, and the USB cable, and turned on, go to another computer (your tablet will work fine) on the network and visit the website www.sonicorbiter.com where you’ll see something like this:
This lets you know your microRendu has been identified and tells you the IP address for its web page. Click on the IP address and you’ll go to your microRendu’s main page, which looks something like this:
Now you need to pick the app you want to use to operate the microRendu. I started with the familiar built-in Roon Ready software, which when used with an external Roon Server, will play music files. The Roon Remote app was already installed on my iPad, and that’s the actual Roon user interface, so I avoided a learning curve. While writing this review, I also used a copy of Roon running on a separate Windows 10 laptop—not the same one as the Roon Server laptop—as another remote. The ability to use a Windows computer as your remote is another advantage of Roon, possibly alleviating the need to buy a tablet for that purpose. When you’re setting up Roon Server on your computer, set the output device on the network devices screen as the microRendu rather than a directly connected DAC as you normally do. You’ll need to do the same thing for the Roon remote. A trial subscription to Roon is included in the microRendu box.
Although I think Roon is a terrific investment, for those who might balk at Roon’s price, the microRendu can also be used with other software, so I tried the Music Player Daemon, or MPD, server app, a Linux program built into the microRendu. Linn’s Kazoo, a free app for the iPad, can be used to control MPD. As I said earlier, the microRendu is only a playback device, so a server must be operating somewhere on the network to send files to the microRendu. In my network, a server app called MinimServer runs on the NAS drive where my music files are stored. MinimServer is very popular for music playback, and handles both PCM and DSD file types. When you buy a NAS, be sure a server app like MinimServer is installed on it, or available for it; I had to replace one NAS because it had no suitable server app, and my credit card is still whimpering. If you’re shopping for a NAS, consider those from QNAP or Synology, both of which will run MinimServer.
The stated raison d’être for the microRendu is that it sounds better than a conventional computer, so to test that claim, I compared microRendu running Roon to my laptop running Roon. Actually, the laptop was used for both parts of the comparison, but for one comparison it was in the listening room connected to the DAC with a USB cable. The same laptop, running Roon Server, with output to the microRendu, is normally in my office near the NAS. Right off the bat, that added an occasional burst of fan noise from the Dell laptop—it’s not terribly annoying, but it is audible. I followed Jesus R’s advice to leave the microRendu powered up at all times. It got moderately warm, but never hot enough to worry about. The power supply remained at room temperature even when left on continuously.
Although I’m sure it was mostly operator error, the microRendu occasionally was a bit finicky about restarting when I was setting it up. Usually, I was able to fiddle with network gear to get it running again, but that sort of thing could be very frustrating to someone new to network music playback. Remember, when dealing with computers, rebooting solves many problems, even rebooting the NAS. Also, the manual is pretty limited, not covering several things that will be obvious to the experienced user, but bewildering to a digital newbie. I suspect the Sonore guys will disagree, since to them, like any computer whiz, it’s a simple plug-and-play device, but I think it might be a bit challenging to a complete newbie. Fortunately, the Sonore guys were patient and responsive to my questions, which probably seemed naive to them.