Native FLAC Player

Are there any receivers that can play FLAC natively? I feel that its a shame that the logitech Squeezebox Transporter is the only native (at least form what I can find) Flac player.

Am I too far ahead of the curve or does anyone else feel let down by Onkyo, Yamaha, Denon etc with the fact that none of their receivers can play FLAC naively?

Some of them will use uPNP to connect to "media servers" but the media server has to stream the FLAC so it down-converts as it transcodes (translates digital info to music) over the network for the receiver to play.

Even the highest high end Onkyo TX-NR906 does not support FLAC through its USB ports. This is particularly confusing because certain reviewers claim that it can play FLAC - well yes it "can" via the "media server" as described above.

Why haven't all the high end audio device makers not seized this opportunity? Is it because the true connoisseurs still listen to loss-less music on analog media (LP) ? What about the rest of us (ok ME) that can't afford the great analog equipment ?

Or... am I completely missing the boat on this? Are there good quality receivers in $2000 range that can play native FLAC?
Some of them will use uPNP to connect to "media servers" but the media server has to stream the FLAC so it down-converts as it transcodes (translates digital info to music) over the network for the receiver to play.
I'm not sure where you got this information, but "down-conversion" isn't at all part of the uPNP protocol . . . the fact that it's "streaming" it from a network device doesn't mean that the audio quality is converted to typical "streaming" internet-radio quality. Plain 'ol 100Mbps ethernet has way more than the necessary bandwidth to stream 192KHz/24bit and beyond . . . so if a uPNP media renderer (i.e. the receivers that you describe) is properly designed, there is no loss of quality in transferring the file across the network.

You might take a look at the Linn DS components - they deliver pretty amazing performance, and support FLAC natively.
Pioneer SC-05/SC-07 play FLAC natively via USB or ethernet to pc media player.

You might also check out Western Digital WDTV - amazing little box plays just about every audio/video format on external USB drive for $100.
there are a bunch of new DSS players coming online. Check out Blacknote at They have a new model That I belive is around $2000. I personally have a Blacknote 30 tube model and its a killer.

Thanks for your response. I use my PS3 to play flac files stored on a computer (or media server) Since PS3 cannot play flac files from its own hard drive the media server has to process the flac file, down-convert and stream it to the PS3.

The flac compatible receivers, at least the one I looked at, claimed to play flac via uPnp. Wouldn't the same hold? Or should I be trying to fix the other end of the problem... i.e find a media server that can stream 192KHz/24bit to my PS3?

Thanks for your recomendation; I will check out Linn DS...

Bgee and Starcon... thanks for your comments as well...
Since PS3 cannot play flac files from its own hard drive the media server has to process the flac file, down-convert and stream it to the PS3.
I'm not really familiar with the PS3 in this application, but if it doesn't support FLACs . . . then that's the type of bottleneck that would require the music file to be transcoded or down-converted simply for it to play at all.

The idea behind uPNP is that music files can be transferred between a media server and a "media renderer", and selected by a "control point" . . . and sometimes two or all three of these things are combined in one box. In a Linn DS setup, you have a uPNP media server (usually a dedicated Network Attached Storage appliance), a control point that's used to select your music (i.e. a PDA or laptop running Linn music-browser software), and the Linn DS itself, which is the media renderer. "uPNP" is simply the protocol by which the information is transferred between these three devices, in the same way that "TCP/IP" or "Windows file sharing" is a protocol . . . and have nothing to do with the content of the file itself (as long as nothing is broken and the files arrive intact).

To play FLACs, the media server has to support them because it must be able to read the data tags from the music files and send them to the control point so you can see your collection - but when the file is played, it is transferred whole and unmolested from the media server to the media renderer, which must also support FLAC in order to play it natively. Thus, the ultimate determiner of the sound quality *should* simply be the media renderer.
If you are willing to shell out a little more, the new PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC with network bridge will do every PCM format and resolution. DAC is $2999 with the network bridge adding about $500 (available in the late fall).

As an added bonus, you don't have to have a computer to use it (like Slim Devices) - just throw your files on a NAS and your off.
Thanks everyone for your responses... Has anyone used the Escient FireBall MX-111 ? How good is the DAC on that? Does it actually decode FLAC natively?
The Escient Fireball MX-111 does natively decodes FLAC files. Additionally, it will encode your cd's to FLAC. It is a very nice media server solution. The software is easy to use and nicely catalogs and organizes your media. It also acts as a web server to any web enabled devices on your network. This is a very nice feature since you can use your touchscreen smartphone as a nifty remote.

The downside to the software is that it is a bit dated. Escient does not seem to support it with regular updates. Not that the software is buggy, but updates to support Pandora, Netflix and YouTube would be easy and welcomed additions.

As for its built in DAC, I haven't utilized it nor do I intend to do so. You must remember that this unit is nothing more than a proprietary branded pc running their software. You want to keep audio circuits as far away from this thing as possible. I use mine with a PS Audio Digital Link 3 for D/A conversion. This solution works very nicely.
Check out the MusicVault which to my mind is a hybrid NAS/Music server which auto-rips FLAC files and can send them wirelessly or wired to a network player. Also has squeezecenter built-in so you get internet radio, and Pandora/Rhapsody/Amazon etc. I feed the digital data wirelessly to a Modwright Transporter but there are lots of "player" or DAC solutions out there.
I'm not sure what you think transcoding does, but it most certainly does NOT necessarily mean "down convert" or down sample! You most certainly can transcode from one lossless format to another with zero information loss (ex. FLAC to Apple Lossless or even WAVE).

You said... "Some of them will use uPNP to connect to "media servers" but the media server has to stream the FLAC so it down-converts as it transcodes (translates digital info to music) over the network for the receiver to play"...This is incorrect- there is no translation of digital info into music taking place by the media server per se, transcoding simply changes bit information into something the end device can interpret. The server simply streams the bytes to your end device (DS, Receiver, etc.) that has a built in codec internally that translates the stream to music.

You mention you have both a PS3 and a 906- now what you need is a program called Asset UPnP @ dbpoweramp (my favorite for ease of use & more importantly sonically). What the programs does is transcode FLAC into WAVE or LPCM- which your devices both have codecs to decode natively. In the transcoding process no info is lost- lossless to lossless= lossless! As a matter of fact Linn recommends the program for their DS's.

I have the same combos as you mentioned and either through the PS3 or my 906- whether streaming M4A, WMA & FLAC (all lossless) sounds absolutely terrific! So much so that I'm just ripping & boxing my CD's now.
Jclsels, you said that Asset transcodes flac into wav or pcm - only if you ask it to though. It will happily serve up flac files to your player, but if the player doesn't support flac, then Asset can transcode on the fly to a format the player does support.

Also, if the player can't handle a particular sample rate or bit depth, these could perhaps be transcoded by the UPnP server program (of which Asset is an example), to something the player can handle - but again this would be at the request of the user.

OP, Linn and both have great forums, faqs and other resources to get you clued up.

May just be something lost in translation OP, but when you say 'receiver', I think multichannel. I've only looked into 2 channel, which Linn gives you, so don't know if that's what you're after. PS Audio Perfectwave looks like it may be giving Linn some competition (think it's 2 channel), and the 6 moons review of that is pending.
The big question is why doesn't the Logitect Squeezebox Duet have a USB port to connect a USB HD that contains your music library. Looks like they got it right otherwise with the remote having a screen and a pretty nice interface to boot. I don't have a dedicated computer to be part of a NAS. Maybe the music in the cloud solution will become more available / affordable, especially since I have almost 500 GB of music on a 1 TB USB drive.