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I have the Aurender N10 and the N100H. I've been delighted by both -- for sound quality and for user interface -- so that's my bias.
So I'd guess the A10 is great too. I believe it has a more sophisticated power supply than the N100H, too. However, I wonder about getting locked into a specific DAC, when that whole area seems to be evolving all the time.
Yes, you can use the A10 just as a server and bypass its internal DAC. But your original idea of the N100H and your own evolving choice of external DAC might work better.
I listened to every demo of the Aurender A10 at the 2016 Rocky Mtn Audio Festival (three different setups). I really wanted to buy it before I attended the event, thinking it would simplify my system. I came away from the auditions believing that an N100H with a very good DAC would be better for my needs and would sound better. In other words, I ended being underwhelmed by the DAC section of the A10. I have since purchased the N100H and kept my current DAC (which I plan to upgrade in the next year or two after MQA has settled out).
PS: the N10 was definitely better sounding, but of course several thousands of dollars more.
The Aurender A10 has a 4TB hard drive. If you want to load your CD's on the hard drive you must first "rip" them to FLAC, WAVE, AAIF or some other format. I use dB Poweramp, a very popular and effective ripping software, to convert the the CD files to FLAC format on my computer. Once the ripping process is complete, you can simply "drag and drop" the ripped files into one of several folders of the Aurender's Library.
If all of your CD's already reside on a flash drive or hard drive, you can import them directly to the Aurender's Library via the provided USB connection. You can also download "Hi-res" files from providers like HD Tracks and drag and drop them into the Aurender Library.
You will also need an iPad to run Aurender's Conductor App. This allows you to access the Library and play your music, make playlists and customize your settings. The Conductor App is extremely well designed! Don't forget that the A10 is a DAC and streamer all in one box and it is MQA certified so you can stream over 3500 complete MQA albums from Tidal not to mention millions more in CD quality.
Let me know if you have any questions.
I too have been considering the A10 after I move my Bluesound Node 2 to another part of our house. I've yet to hear one but have read all the reviews I could find. The January issue of Stereophile just published a review of the A10 that is somewhat luke warm. Another option I am considering is one of the Lumin models...either a used A1 or new T1...or D2. The Lumins do not have internal hard drive that the A10 does but otherwise seems to be a good sounding player. Curious if anyone has compared Aurender and Lumin.
I have a Lumin A1 and have heard the Aurender A-10 in similar priced systems and would not trade mine for the Aurender. The support for the Lumin is second to none...IMO. I can contact Peter Li and he will get back with and answer any question I have within 12 hrs and is always available on Audioshark.com to answer questions. The Lumin is just superb....they are always sending digital upgrades and the MQA is great....hope this helps..
I have owned an A-10 for a year now. As a stand alone its sounds very good. I have it mated with a Micro Zotl 2.0s and have just upgraded my cables to Audience Au24SX. Mated with Odyssey Kismet Monos and Magico S3 speakers it sounds pretty damn good. It replaced a Aurender N100>Oppo 105 with full Modwright tube mods and it absolutely kills it.
My friend brought over his Yggy and we A-B and there was not a preference. Ran the Usb out to the yggy so just had to flip the input switch on the preamp and levels were matched.
The Absolute sound review was the first I saw that was not absolutely excited about it.
Here are a few reviews.
So you can see a lot of positive press.
Full blown MQA is a nice bonus. I replaced the Oppo 105 with a Oppo 103 and use that as a digital preamp which runs to the digital in
of the Aurender. You Tube, Cable, etc all sound outstanding in a 2 channel system.
I think it is a great piece. There was a unit for 4800 that sold in a few days here so looks like it is going to hold its value.
I think the street price is under 5K so it pays to shop.
Good luck with your decision