Innuos

Music Servers for audiophiles created in Portugal
Designed for Audiophiles who want to extract all the detail and dynamics out of their music on hi-fi systems, a smoother, more relaxed sound with a wider soundstage.

6MOONS VOTED INNUOS AMONGST THE "TOP 4 MUSIC SERVERS":

OUR SERVERS
Enjoy all your music perfectly organised in one place with pristine playback to your Hi-Fi or multiroom music system with our ZEN Mk3 Music Servers. With upgraded custom-built motherboards, power supply upgrades and a lot of improvements trickled-down from our award-winning ZENith SE, our servers have never sounded so good. All are powered by our innuOS Operating System that will make importing, managing, playing and streaming your music a breeze!

PERFECT SYNERGY BETWEEN HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE
Our multi-disciplinary team combines expertise in Computer Hardware, Audio Hardware, Networking and Software Engineering to create our products end-to-end.

CUSTOMER-DRIVEN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
By working closely together with end users and partners alike, we really understand what different customers require in a music solution. This has been driving our research and development since day one.

OPEN PLATFORM
Digital Audio is a fast-evolving area, with new products being constantly introduced in the market. Instead of designing closed solutions, we build our products to be open, allowing integration with the most popular Hi-Fi and Multi-room products in the market.

INTELLIGENT CD RIPPING
Bit-Perfect Ripping - using AccurateStream technology, extract every last bit of your CDs into WAV or FLAC files.

Automatic CD Ripping
Just pop-in a CD! innuOS will automatically get full album data and cover from multiple online databases, rip your CD and eject when done.

Assisted CD Ripping
Assisted CD Ripping allows you to see and edit all the album data and cover obtained from the online databases before you rip the CD. Great for Classical Music!

Quiet Mode
Love to listen to music whilst ripping your CDs and want absolute silence? Just engage Quiet Mode for slowing down ripping, making it much quieter and with less vibration.

Offline Ripping
CDs can be ripped without internet connection. When connected, album data and cover for all offline ripped CDs will be obtained with a simple click.

MUSIC SERVER MANAGEMENT
Automatic Network Identification

No more figuring out IP addresses find your server. Just go to my.innuos.com on your tablet or smartphone to list all Innuos devices on the network and access the innuOS App from there.

Remote Updates
Update the system with a touch of a button to benefit from our continuous improvements: new functionalities, enriched customer experience or enhanced sound quality.

Automatic Backup to USB Drive or NAS
Backup of your music library can be set on innuOS to start automatically based on library growth (e.g. every time 50 CDs are added) to either a USB backup drive or to a NAS on the network.

DIGITAL MUSIC IMPORT
Import Wizards for Existing Libraries - Pre-defined wizards for importing music from USB storage, Music Servers and NAS.

Intelligent Import Engine
innuOS takes all the hard work of importing music by intelligently analysing the music files and applying a number of rules such as:

Organising the music based on format quality (compressed, cd quality or high-resolution), Artist and Album

Removing very long file names or illegal characters

Adding metadata to WAV files based on folder structure 

Download from Online Stores
Qobuz, Linn Records, HD Tracks, HiResAudio, B&W Society of Sound, iTunes, Amazon and more. Just download the music files (even if they are in a zip or tar file) to the Auto Import shared folder and the server will take care of adding and updating the music library.

HI-FI MUSIC PLAYER
Rediscover Your Music and Discover New One

Play all your music as well as Internet Radio and streaming services with the best sound quality by connecting directly to a DAC or Digital Amplifier via asynchronous USB. - Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz require premium subscriptions

Supports All Major Music Formats:
The innuOS Music Player plays FLAC, DSD, MQA, WAV, Apple Lossless, AIFF, M4A and MP3 supporting bitrates up to 32bit/384KHz and DSD256, when connecting to compatible DACs

Roon Player is also now available: 
The innuOS Music Player can optionally become a Roon player so you can use the amazing Roon interface to explore your music like never before.

MUSIC LIBRARY MANAGEMENT
Edit or Delete Albums

Browse your library, select the album you want to update and just start editing directly on your tablet or smartphone. You can change the cover, manage genres based on previously used genres or simply delete the album - couldn’t be easier.

Quarantine

Quarantine is a staging area, separate from the Music Library, where any albums requiring attention are placed so they can be fixed before they go into the Music Library. These include:

Albums with no metadata
Ripped albums with damaged tracks
Potentially duplicated albums
Albums ripped offline

Automatic Music Library Update
After music is added, modified or deleted, the library is automatically updated as well as any connected systems such as Sonos or UPnP Streamers.

STREAMERS AND MULTI-ROOM SYSTEMS
Perfect Integration with Sonos

innuOS can automatically connect its music library to a Sonos system at the touch of a button as well as automatically rescan the Sonos Music Library when any album is added, modified or deleted from the Music Library.

Fast and Reliable UPnP Server

innuOS also contains a UPnP Server configured out-of-the-box to work flawlessly with a number of UPnP-based systems:

Wireless multi-room: such as Denon HEOS, Bang & Olufsen and BOSE amongst others

Music streamers such as Naim, Linn , Moon, Auralic and many others

Roon Server 
innuOS will also optionally integrate Roon Core* so you can use innuOS with other Roon-Ready streamers for a complete multi-room system. 
* A Roon license, purchased separately, is required

HOME AUTOMATION:
innuOS can be integrated with the most popular home automation control systems such as RTI, Control4, KNX, AMX, Elan, Crestron and iRidium.

Reviews

Reviews

Innuos Phoenix USB Reclocker: Making Music Rise From Digital Ashes
Rafe Arnott

I had a friend who would chuckle at me every time I put an LP on my turntable.

I would use a soft dust-brush to wipe down the record, then give it a zap with an antistatic gun before I dropped the just-cleaned stylus… this he thought was humorous because of my preoccupation with keeping the album as quiet as possible for playback.

It’s no joking matter for those binary obsessed individuals out there though. This analog ritual is one played out constantly on the digital side of the hobby with various intermediaries performing signal optimization to ensure whatever DAC is receiving this sampled sound wave is getting exactly what was gleaned from that waveform.

Most pass on their ones and zeros through a laptop or PC – perfectly acceptable, but less than ideal from a sonic standpoint because personal computers are not designed and built from the ground up to perform the task of sending along those precious bits with the singleminded intensity of sound quality first.

But there are machines out there whose sole purpose is making sure that the delicate electronic signal is passed along to a DAC as utterly unmolested by electromagnetic interference, electronic noise, shared power supplies, unstable timing from audio-data clocks, thermal inconsistencies or improperly optimized software for dealing with audio specifically.

One such machine is the new Innuos PhoenixUSB Reclocker. While both USB and Network connections suffer from certain sonic performance issues, USB is is fussed over the most, mostly due to timing issues involved with the chipset’s audio-data clock. 

According to Innuos the PhoenixUSB is designed to make sure the integrity of a USB signal being outputted to a connected downstream DAC is as pristine as possible. Featuring a 24MHz OCXO clock, the USB chipset output does not have any switching regulators and possesses no less than three independent linear-power voltage supplies.

Innuos to launch PhoenixUSB re-clocker with A/B demos
John H. Darko

Connect a USB DAC to an average computer and we hear one level of sound quality. Swap that Macbook, HP or Dell out for an Innuos server/streamer and we what we hear is different: music sounds less tense, less rigid in the joints; it displays a greater sense of ease.

Why? Apple and Dell don’t optimise their computers’ sound quality by lowering the USB sockets’ electrical noise emissions. Noise that messes with the connected DAC’s audio data clock and analogue output stage. Innuos, on the other hand, seeks to lower the electrical noise spilling from their machines’ USB outputs by specifying linear power supplies and a bespoke software layer (among other things). 

A. Innuos’ latest digital audio product isn’t a server/streamer but a box that promises to elevate the sound quality of any USB source. USB in, USB out with signal clean-up in-between. The PhoenixUSB comprises three key ingredients:

  1. A USB output chip with no switching regulators
  2. A 3ppb 24MHz OCXO clock located in close proximity to the USB output chip to ensure the direct-connected DAC receives a constant and consistent stream of data* [See nerdnote 1]. This puts less of an error-checking burden on the DAC’s USB receiver chip that, in turn, generates less electrical noise. Back to the press release: “No precision is lost within cables and connectors, as is the case when using an external master 10MHz clock with an additional 24MHz clock generator.”
  3. Both clock and USB chip are powered by separate, dedicated linear supplies. The press release again: “All 3 independent voltages to the [USB] chip originate from an independent linear power supply with further regulation provided by 3 sets of LT3045 regulators.”

B. The second part of this story is that Innuos will be showing off PhoenixUSB’s audible amelioration at this coming weekend’s RMAF, moving their product announcement from the theoretical to the real. Partnering with Colorado natives YG, Ayre and Boulder, plus AudioQuest on cabling, Innuos will be giving A/B demos of the PhoenixUSB in Suite 3142.

A/B demos aren’t common at audio shows. RMAF attendees demanding more should vote with their feet accordingly. Europeans will get their first chance to see/hear the PhoenixUSB at XFi in The Netherlands at the end of the month.

I am confident in saying that it has few – if any – peers in the network server field, which means that it is one of if not the best digital source you can buy today. 
Jason Kennedy

CONCLUSION: The Innuos Statement takes what the company did with the SE and goes considerably further in the quest to unearth maximum musical brilliance in any recording. I suspect that the more I use it the more I’ll hear, especially if paired with better conversion, amplification, and transduction. I am confident in saying that it has few – if any – peers in the network server field, which means that it is one of if not the best digital source you can buy today. 

REVIEW: If you read my review of the Innuos Zenith SE you will know that I considered that server to be a game changer, a product that redefined what was possible with digital audio. It did that by redefining what a digital source is capable of, essentially by proving that the source is king in digital audio as much as it is with analogue. It achieved that by serving up the bits with considerably less noise than the competition, essentially producing a far cleaner and more precisely timed signal for DACs and streamers to turn into analogue. The Zenith SE was a limited-edition piece (only 100 were made) and even though it was expensive for a server (£5,000) they sold out within a year and proved to Innuos that they were on the right track. I have used the SE as a reference ever since and have yet to find its equal.

In May 2018 at the Munich show, Innuos unveiled the Statement, which incorporated everything the company knew about making a totally uncompromised network server. Their demonstrations involved contrasting a Zentih SE with the Statement, the difference was surprisingly stark given that the SE had set such a high benchmark. But the Statement is twice the price and comes in two boxes. That said, it has taken a while to finally ship at the end of 2018. 

The Statement looks a bit like a Zenith SE plus an extra box, but a closer inspection reveals that the casework has been changed, most markedly by placing the drive slot in the centre and revising the stealth styling to suit. The top of the box also has distinctive styling which presumably adds rigidity as well as aesthetic appeal. The top case contains the SSD storage, a custom motherboard designed to minimise EMI and eight DC power rails, each with double regulation (16 regulators in total). Four rails are for the motherboard, with one each for the SSD storage, Ethernet clock, USB clock, and for the USB 5V. The lower and more substantial case accepts the incoming power and converts AC to DC in order to isolate the high voltage and keep its emissions away from the sensitive elements in the server itself. As with the Zenith SE the power supply side of the Statement was designed by Sean Jacobs, an engineer who designs and builds power supplies for Naim products among other things; if this and the SE are anything to go by, they warrant investigation.

The boxes are connected by two umbilical cables, one on either side of the case and which are unusually short. This is by design, to make the system look like one box. There’s no drawback in terms of performance due to the 10mm aluminium covers on the Statement and in fact, the shorter cables do help. Having said this, Innuos can provide longer cables on-demand. The connections provided look much like those on a Zenith with network in- and outputs on RJ45 sockets for ethernet cable, a system that means you don’t need a network switch but can simply link the Statement directly to a streamer thus cutting out an electrically noisy computer peripheral. There is a USB 3.0 connection for Backup and an extra USB 2.0 output alongside a dedicated USB DAC output. This features one of two OCXO clocks (the other is for the Ethernet), both of which have their own dedicated supplies and claim 3ppb accuracy. This element was designed to improve the quality of signals streamed from both the server and the world beyond. If you use the Statement with a USB DAC its output can be controlled by one of the Squeezebox oriented third-party apps such as iPeng (iOS) or Orange Squeeze (Android), which both offer the ability to sign up to high-res streaming services. Alternatively, and rather more attractively (albeit also more costly) is Roon; the Innuos can function as a Roon Core which allows this usefully reliable and informative control application to send signal out to Roon ready DACs (and even some that aren’t).

There are various ways of getting music onto this server, the simplest of which is to rip your CD collection with the onboard drive and have its software look up the metadata. But that is also the slowest and if you already have a collection of music files a bit pointless. If that’s the case you can use the my.innous.com online dashboard where there are various methods of transferring files from a computer or drive to the Statement. This is also where you can tweak metadata by correcting file names, adding artwork etc. and change settings such as whether to use the Innuos as a Roon Core or UPnP server. It’s been updated in the last year to include a quick import mode and now offers automatic artwork search alongside the option to upload your own. Like most server dashboards, it’s a little confusing to start with but doesn’t take long to understand. Of the import options, the easiest is probably via the auto import folder that appears on your desktop if you open the server, put new files in there and go to the dashboard to import them onto the drive. There is also a quarantine file for duplicates and unknown files which you can edit through the web browser. If you want to see a well organised, fully artworked collection, with a bit of homework the dashboard allows you to tidy things up so that any control app looks complete. Roon, however, is the better bet.

Listening commenced with the Statement sending signal via USB to an iFi Pro iDSD DAC on a Vertere HB cable, it proved a highly rewarding experience thanks to the incredible sense of space that the server manages to find in so many recordings. Not all of them of course but Nils Frahm’s ‘Momentum’ [All Melody, Erased Tapes] had plenty around the deep, dark textures of this beautifully rich piece of music. What was also rather nice was the undulating bass pulse that gently underpins the track; this had shape and depth like I haven’t encountered before, not even on vinyl. This server is particularly good at unfolding everything it plays; the Zenith SE seemed to have vanishing noise levels and phenomenal resolution, but this ups the ante by further opening up each track and placing the music in the room. Dynamics as well as imaging benefit from this, presumably because the quieter sounds are clearer and the dynamic range has been expanded at this end of the scale. Tape hiss was always the scourge of analogue recordings, but for some reason it makes things sound more real when it turns up on digital releases. Yussef Kammal’s Black Focus[Brownswood] is a case in point. I had always presumed it to be a digital recording, but the appearance of tape hiss via the Statement proved otherwise, ultimately revealing why it’s such an appealing recording.

I’m still fairly confident that Radiohead’s Moon Shaped Pool[XL] was captured bit by bit, but the sheer amount of work that went into its creation became all the more apparent here. There are layers underneath the ones you can usually hear, and sounds that extend way outside the bounds of the loudspeakers. It’s as if every one of the multi tracks can be individually accessed yet the music as a whole coalesces to create a powerful overall effect. I love the way the Statement reveals the tension in ‘Full Stop’ even when it’s played at a sensible level; all those micro dynamics and nuances come out to reveal precisely how neurotic Thom Yorke and Co. have become since the exuberance of ‘Creep’.

Being a fan of Ethernet rather than USB connections I felt the need to hook the Innuos up to a streamer, an AURALiC ARIES G2 to be precise... and it is precise. This brought out greater depth of analysis, exposing even more of the minutiae that goes into the production of a Radiohead album. It also made it clear that the low-level resolution of the Statement is in another league to the Zenith SE – you really don’t know how much is going on in the shadows without a server of this calibre. 

Spinning an old favourite in Steely Dan’s ‘Show Biz Kids’ [Countdown to Ecstasy, ABC Dunhill] revealed a remarkable amount of three-dimensional space in the recording. Again the layers were peeled apart and the quality of composition, playing, and syncopation made all the more palpable. Then came the guitar solo on ‘My Old School’; this always sounds good, but the highs on this server are incredibly clean and open, so here it was even more breathtaking. As ever with higher resolution, the qualities of good recordings become more apparent. This happened with Patricia Barber’s ‘Subway Station #5’ [A Distortion Of Love, Antilles], an intense and dynamic track that can get chaotic with lesser sources and is hard work to enjoy. The Statement did its trick of opening it up and making space for all of the musicians to do their stuff in highly compelling style, and the beautifully open and extended treble remained clean even when the going got rough. 

At this point I thought that it would be interesting to try the Naim NDX 2 streamer/DAC that had only been in the system for a few hours. I know it’s a sin to use a Naim before it’s had a couple of weeks warm up, but deadlines aren’t always that helpful. It proved a rewarding experience thanks largely to the improved timing that was brought to the table. The balance was warmer and the bass a little thicker, but the beat was so well defined that I couldn’t help but get involved with the music especially when Bugge Wesseltoft, Dan Berglund, and Magnus Ostrom got going on their forthcoming album Reflections and Odysseys[Jazzland]. This band should obviously have been called b.w.t. in honour of its similarities to e.s.t., but they went for Rymden (must be a Scandi thing). Regardless of the name, they make some superb music that sounds absolutely stonking on the Statement. There was acoustic space as far as the walls and a soundstage that expands out from the speakers to put you in the front row. This is what living is all about. I have to admit to getting rather carried away with this combination; it mesmerised me with a whole raft of great albums and the notepad was forgotten. Suffice to say, if you want musical engagement and phenomenal levels of detail give it a go.

Out of interest I contrasted the Statement with the Zenith SE, something that doesn’t come naturally to control apps, but I coerced Roon into playing ball and it made it clear that the bigger, two box server is significantly more capable when it comes to a sense of three dimensionality. Put on an orchestral recordings and you can sense the shape and size of the venue and almost feel the air within it. I thought that the SE was pretty good at this already, but the Statement proves that there is more to be had. I also played quite a lot of music from Tidal which proved to be more appealing than usual, the clocking on both outputs (I used USB) clearly helps to bring out the vibrancy and air in the signal whilst reducing the slightly harsh nature of higher frequencies. Locally stored music still sounds more relaxed and spacious, but the gap has clearly been narrowed quite usefully. Given the trend toward cloud streamed listening this feature would be nice to see on Innuos’s more affordable products or as a standalone piece of kit. It helped me to discover an artist who looks like becoming a favourite. Gwenifer Raymond, a finger picking guitar player who despite not being American (she’s Welsh) plays in the American Primitive style like a demon; I have Tidal’s playlisting to thank for that find.

The Innuos Statement takes what the company did with the SE and goes considerably further in the quest to unearth maximum musical brilliance in any recording. I suspect that the more I use it the more I’ll hear, especially if paired with better conversion, amplification, and transduction. I am confident in saying that it has few – if any – peers in the network server field, which means that it is one of if not the best digital source you can buy today. 

this Innuos is a genuine state of the art component, put it on your ‘must hear’ bucket list straight away.

SUMMARY: The longer you let the Statement settle in the better it sounds and by the end of the server’s far too short (month long) tenure I was getting seriously addicted to it. Whether streaming Ryley Walker on Tidal or Bugge Wesseltoft from the drive it has a beguiling transparency and openness that is dangerous to get used to, especially as it has inevitably to go back. The Statement is a more subtle source than most, its qualities are those of omission, it leaves out the distortion so that the music can come through. In this and all other respects this Innuos is a genuine state of the art component, put it on your ‘must hear’ bucket list straight away.

REVIEW: The analogue world figured out that the source is the most important part of the chain nearly fifty years ago when Ivor Tiefenbrun unleashed the Linn LP12, inarguably the best marketed turntable in the world ever. In the CD era the emphasis moved away from that philosophy with digital to analogue converters becoming the centre of attention. Now that streaming is in the ascendant it has become clear that the source is still crucial if great sound is to be achieved. I’m talking about streaming from locally stored files here rather than the Cloud, the latter may be where it’s at in the mainstream but it has yet to catch up in sound quality terms.

About this time last year I got hold of Innuos’s limited edition Zenith SE network server, at the time it was the most ambitious server the Portuguese company had made with a custom designed power supply and lots of attention paid to keeping noise at bay. It completely blew me away with transparency, timing and dynamics the like of which had eluded digital audio since time immemorial. Inconveniently for the audio connoisseurs of the world Innuos only made a 100 Zenith SEs and they sold out last year. But the company could see that there was an appetite for a genuine high end server and have created something more extreme in the Statement, a two box server with absolutely no holds barred in its design and execution. 

Innuos-Statement-Black-Rear.jpg

 As with the Zenith SE Innuos brought in Sean Jacobs to design the power supply, this time it’s spread it over two chassis. The larger enclosure contains the first stages of the supply with a transformer and multiple rectifiers and capacitors creating eight isolated power rails that are sent to the server proper. It’s there that each of the regulators is mounted very close to the element that they supply in order to keep noise at a minimum. We asked Sean to explain how he has done this in greater depth and you can find his explanation here.

The smaller of the two Statement cases is where the serious business of music serving goes on, this is where the SSD memory sits (available in three different sizes up to 4TB) alongside the processor that manages data transfer out of the server. Innuos has commissioned a motherboard that resists/is shielded from EMI which they have identified as a major source of corruption within audio electronics. Their philosophy is that the less noise gets in to the system the less distorted the emerging signal will be, an approach in which they are hardly alone but one where their efforts appear to be bearing particularly juicy fruit. Only one other company makes as much noise about, er, noise to my knowledge and that’s CAD, who have a pretty serious server of their own as well as ground cleaning devices.

The Statement has a dedicated USB output for DACs with its own 5V power line and reclocking by a high accuracy OCXO clock, the latter is also provided for the ethernet output. This extra clocking was introduced to improve the quality of music services such as Tidal and Qobuz as much as anything where the sound quality has always been below that available from locally stored music files. Contrasting Tidal with my own files on the Statement there is still a difference, with the external stream not being quite as relaxed as the local but it’s a lot cleaner than usual and a clear upgrade on what’s available by more conventional routes. Which in the case of streamers is direct from the router or a switch. Innuos servers have always incorporated a switch with a far cleaner power supply than those found on peripherals. 

Innuos-Statement-Silver-Perspective.jpg

 The method of getting music files onto the Statement is as per other Innuos products, you can rip discs with the onboard drive or import files from alternative locations via the my.innuos online dashboard. The latter has been improved since last year and makes it easier to quickly add files and to add artwork where none has been found by the server, there is an ‘import history’ pane that’s quite handy and the option to import from different sources: NAS drives, USB drives or from a PC on the same network. These work fairly seamlessly so long as you get your path naming correct and your files are fairly organised, that said it isn’t difficult to edit metadata once it’s on the drive.

As things stand Innuos does not have its own control app to send signal to USB connected DACs, I get the impression that this will happen one day but it’s clear that Statement and the mk3 Zen/Zenith range absorbed all the company’s R&D efforts last year. For now you can use iPeng on Apple devices and Orange Squeeze on Android ones, I used iPeng for the most part and found it to be pretty solid and reliable. I also used Roon because Statement has the option to run Roon Core which is a major bonus and means you don’t need Roon running on a PC nor a Roon Nucleus. 

The arrival of the Statement coincided with my move to a new listening room which always takes a bit of adjustment and this combined with my expectation that it would do what the Zenith SE did again, which was to raise the bar so high that nothing else came within reach, meant that I was initially a bit underwhelmed by its performance. However, with time it became apparent that this is an astonishingly revealing server, one that is clearly superior to the SE and thus far and away the best example of the breed that I have heard. It is in the first instance unfeasibly quiet, the noise floor has to all intents and purposes disappeared so that you can hear the very quietest sounds in a recording. This means you get incredible levels of detail and the most open and expansive soundstages ever encountered, and, equally important, even more scorching guitar. Or you do if you spin ZZ Top’s ‘Jesus Just Left Chicago’ (Tres Hombres, Warner Bros). 

The reason that it burns so hot is that the hash between notes has been removed leaving the leading and trailing edges as clean and clear as the artist and engineer heard them in the studio. Separation with this server is extraordinary, between instruments, voices, notes, you name it, it is nearly always possible to differentiate all of the sounds on a recording. Some music deliberately blurs these boundaries but where several or more musicians are playing lots of notes this clarity is a transformation, and the denser the music is the more obvious the benefits of the Statement’s ability to present it coherently. It opens up space both in imaging and timing terms, this is a quality you get with great turntables, an unfolding of the recording to make the time for the notes to form and trail away at whatever tempo they need to. This the Statement does with utmost ease and the better the accompanying streamer and or DAC the easier it is to appreciate. 

statement-angle.jpg

 I particularly enjoyed the image scale that the Statement revealed, it’s not the bloom/halo effect you get with some tube amps because the size and nature changes with every album or track played. Beck’s ‘Heart Like a Drum’ (Morning Phase) usually sounds big, but here you can tell that the reverb has been turned up to max and then some, it’s not natural but it is nice to have the room filled with coherent sound in a fashion that Dolby Atmos and the like can only dream of. Regardless of whether you use the USB to DAC or ethernet to streamer outputs the resolution is astounding, pieces you thought you knew reveal new facets and depths and it’s impossible not to be drawn into the music. The other very appealing characteristic is that everything sounds so relaxed and effortless, I thought that the Zenith SE was good in this respect – it is  – but Statement takes another layer of grain away. This is what eliminating noise in the source means, a more natural, less digital sound that seriously competes with the best turntables. In fact where bass is concerned you’d have to have a top flight turntable, arm and cartridge to get near it. And I’m a vinyl enthusiast with far too many records to prove it, but with a great streamer like the Naim NDX2/XPS2 the dynamics and low frequency coherence makes me wonder if time has not come to change my ways.

Contrasting the Zenith SE and the Statement is interesting, you get more space, more detail and less grain/sweeter cleaner treble with Statement, but the timing remains pretty much the same. It’s essentially a lower distortion version of what was already very, very clean sound. And the sense of space is extraordinary, I’ve not encountered imaging like it nor have I heard digitally sourced highs that on the one hand are shiny and vibrant but on the other are relaxed. It really is a best of both worlds experience. As you can see from the list below I tried a number of streamers and DACs with the Statement and each brought something different to the picture, but once again the streamers had the upper hand in terms of musicality. The Statement’s USB output has narrowed the gap however, the result I got with both the ifi and CAD DACs was the best I’ve ever encountered with this connection.

The longer you let the Statement settle in the better it sounds and by the end of the server’s far too short (month long) tenure I was getting seriously addicted to it. Whether streaming Ryley Walker on Tidal or Bugge Wesseltoft from the drive it has a beguiling transparency and openness that is dangerous to get used to, especially as it has inevitably to go back. The Statement is a more subtle source than most, its qualities are those of omission, it leaves out the distortion so that the music can come through. In this and all other respects this Innuos is a genuine state of the art component, put it on your ‘must hear’ bucket list straight away.

RMAF 2018 – Innuos Statement vs. ZENith Mk.3 Music Servers

As we step into the Well Pleased AV room, we see a huge smile from one of the industry’s most genuine people – Mark Sossa. If you’ve ever heard Hip-hop or gangsta rap coming from his room, I was probably in there. Mark is one of those few exhibitors who takes the time to try to get to know people – and will help you escape the onslaught of Diana Krall and the Eagles. Mark runs the show at Well Pleased AV and has plenty of other high-end brands including Aqua Acoustics and Rethm loudspeakers.

The room: LinnenberG Telemann Pre and WIDOR amplifier, Gigawatt PC-4 EVO+ power conditioner, and Aqua Hi-Fi Formula xHD DAC – and of course the Innuos Statement and SE Mk.2. On transducers, we have the elegant Olin Prestige Three loudspeakers, Cables? Swisscables. Racks? SGR Symphony Model 5/3.

After conversing with Nuno Vitorino and Amelia Santos of Innuos, one thing was very clear – this Portugalian team consists of some of the most passionate designers I’ve ever met. That’s why they’re makers of some of the world’s best (if not the best) music servers for audiophiles. They obsess about mechanical vibration, reducing EMI noise with probes, clean power, and accurate clocks.

Innuos Statement vs. ZENith SE

I’ve received a few emails regarding comparisons between the SE and Statement. This is my second time listening to A/B comparisons and I feel I have a good enough grasp to write a few words. Keep in mind the Statement is a complete redesign. There’s no way to make an SE a Statement – but it could be brought closer with their upcoming external USB reclocker (Innuos are releasing a USB Reclocker end of 2019).

My impressions from AXPONA 2018 still stand – the Statement is far more transparent, quiet, dimensionally layered, tight, and articulate. The SE had a lusher and warmer sound but didn’t have nearly the delineation or spatial resolution of the Statement. The SE sounded a bit flatter with fewer textural cues while the Statement had some of the most focused, insightful, and pinpoint imaging I’ve ever heard. At its price point, the SE is no slouch. If you’re willing to fork out almost double the cash – you’ll be rewarded with, what I believe, is the most transparent and quietest setup at RMAF 2018.

We gave both music servers, the Zen Mini Mk II and the Zen Mk II, the very high rating of 4.8 stars. Because sound and concept are convincing in all respects and the price for both is extremely fair.
Bernd Weber

Conclusion Innuos Zen Mini Mk II and Zen Mk II:
The conclusion is short and concise: The Innuos music server Mk II are very innovative, incredibly fast and can be fantastically easy to use. They have a convincing sound quality and an ingenious price / performance ratio. 
Any questions?
Maybe this: Is the gain in tonal substance from Zen Mini to Zen worth the extra cost of almost 1,000 euros? I mean yes. We are in HiFi / High End and such sound enhancements are paid much more expensive elsewhere.
We gave both music servers, the Zen Mini Mk II and the Zen Mk II, the very high rating of 4.8 stars. Because sound and concept are convincing in all respects and the price for both is extremely fair. 

REVIEW (German to English via Google)! 
The Norddeutsche hi-fi days in Hamburg are a very nice event, but they are not the kind of fair where a lot of hi-fi novelties are presented. Nevertheless, we found while browsing on the North German HiFi days, at least for us completely new brand: Innuos.

The Portuguese produce music servers of the finest quality and at very fair prices - so at least our first impression at the fair. So we ordered the two smaller models Innuos ZENMini Mk II and ZEN Mk II for the test. LowBeats author Bernd Weber took a lot of time and the two under the microscope. Here is his report:

Honestly, this brand was unknown to me until then, and I looked at these devices so slightly skeptical, after all, almost everyone can nowadays with a bit of skill a computer together ... But the curiosity outweighed and the chic design with the irregularly shaped and This lightened front of stable, high-quality aluminum told me right away. 

The Innuos Zen Mini Mk II and Zen Mk II are also without blemish. The structure is very clean and stable with only the most necessary controls: In both models, there is on the front only the slot of the TEAC slot-in drive and a power switch with side-mounted LED. The diode of the mini shines in blue, the Zen can be adjusted in 8 colours to match the domestic components, very chic! The differences also manifest in weight and dimensions: the Zen Mini in half hi-fi format weighs about 4 kilos, the Zen in the full hi-fi width (42cm) is almost exactly double: 8 kilos 

The equipment of the two is practical. Both support MP3, AAC, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, DSD, DXD, MQA. Sample rates: PCM up to 384 kHz 32 bits, DSD up to 256. That should be enough for almost any occasion. The "small" Innuos Zen Mini Mk II has on the back the connections for the external power supply (no cheap power adapter!), 2 x USB 2.0, LAN, service, 2 x USB 3.0 and two other service connections, done. For the larger Zen Mk II there are instead 2 x USB 2.0, LAN, a galvanic isolated LAN output to connect to the streamer and a service socket. For this purpose, the Zen Mk II has a classically constructed power supply installed.

But what about Bluetooth, S / PDIF or WLAN? None. "These techniques and their components disturb the sound quality of the Innuos," the developer Emanuel Ey told me. He also underlined that the connection to an external DAC or streamer via USB 2.0 sound better than via USB 3.0. Here is someone to his philosophy, respect!

Next to the slot-in drive of TEAC sits an Intel CPU with Quad Core. The Innuos Zen Mini Mk II has 2 GB RAM and the Zen Mk II has 4 GB RAM. Each half of the memory is for the operating system and the other for temporary storage of the requested music files. This promises rapid operation and data processing. With regard to the hard drive memory size, the Innuos Zen Mini Mk II has a choice of 1 TB or 2 TB, while the Zen Mk II can choose between 2 TB and 4 TB. Built-in are no hard drives, but classic HDD hard drives. But the rotating memory are almost unnoticeable - they are, like the slot-drive of TEAC - floating decoupled. You have to go straight to the device with your ear to see that it's up and running. I had both music servers close to the system during the listening tests - no problem.

CD ripping with Innuos Zen Mini Mk II and Zen Mk II

The reading is done fully automatically, but it can also be accompanied with the assistant. Also, the import of music on external USB drives or a NAS in the home network is very quiet. With a USB cable you can connect the Innuos Zen Mini Mk II to an external DAC; So connected the music is played through an app (iPeng, Orange Squeeze etc.). Likewise, it can be accessed via the apps as streamed music from the local network - than via a USB or LAN connection. The same applies to the Zen Mk II, which can or should additionally be connected to a streamer via the galvanically isolated LAN interface. Innuos promises thereby an even better sound.

The operating system innuOS is based on Linux and is an in-house development. It is possible to import the music files from USB media, NAS and CD. Streaming goes, inter alia, by Tidal and Qobuz, the reception of Internet radio is also given. In addition the connection to Sonos is possible and also Roon is on offer. The innuOS software contains a UPnP server. Naim, Linn, Moon, Auralic, Denon, HEOS and others are supported.

Connected to the network at home, you serve the music server via browser on the tablet. All you have to do is enter my.innuos.com into the browser and you'll be able to start the clear user interface in a jiffy. PC knowledge is absolutely not necessary with these music servers, the operating system innuOS does everything independently! For example, ripping CDs as .flac or .wav and the tempo of recording can be set. You can also define how and where the data should be saved, whether the whole thing should run fully automatically or manually. Playback via the browser-based software is not yet possible, but this is currently being worked on.

Metadata such as covers, titles or artists are loaded by innuOS software from various databases. If no LAN is available at the moment, this will not be a problem, the metadata will be reloaded to the network later. If the databases do not provide any information, you can easily edit them yourself and import your own covers. Also, you can perform these edits on the home PC, for example, with MP3 tags.

Best: Music server Innuos Zen Mini Mk II and Zen Mk II

Special Guest July 8, 2017
If albums are duplicated or contain errors, they are automatically moved to the so-called quarantine folder. There they can be deleted or their metadata corrected; after pressing the memory button they will appear in the library. Actually useful, such a feature, and yet not available on every music server. HiRes albums are marked separately by the way. Whole albums (also zipped) can be downloaded from vendors like Qobuz, Tidal, and Amazon.

Innuos Zen Mini Mk II and Zen Mk II in the hearing and practice test

For the hearing and practice test, we used the proven in many comparative tests network player Cambridge 851N. As soon as the music servers were connected, there was already the first surprise: the access times via the Cambridge app on the albums was really fast, waiting almost zero. Even when scrolling through the almost 1,000 albums imported via external USB hard drive, there were no problems with the speed, even the covers were quickly called up. In contrast, the USB disk and the existing NAS lost a massive amount. Cumbersome and slow was definitely nothing for the Innuos. This performance is great!

Then I started reading a few CDs directly from the TEAC drive. The software innuOS needed for a CD short 4 minutes, while the hard disk was audible. Then I changed the rip speed of "Quick Mode" to "Quiet Mode", so you hear from a distance of one meter as well as nothing more from the device. The reading time was now 7 minutes. Completely adequate!

Now it started with the listening test: First, the Innous Zen Mini Mk II via USB 2.0 and LAN compared to USB disk and the existing NAS. "Digital is digital," says the vernacular. Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that! Music sounded over the Zen Mini immediately a little quieter and with a gain in space. Imagination?

No. And it got even better. I compared the PC and EAC (Exact Audio Copy) ripped CDs to the proprietary rips of the Innuos. Surely that could not be true: with Diana Krall's Wallflower, the strings were more silky than before, their great piano runs sparkling cleaner and purer. Also Diana's now more sensitive voice was really beguiling, in a duet with the cuddly Michael Bublé finer. In Joni Mitchell's "The Sire Of Sorrow", the shades in her voice were worked out even better, in the men's choir I was able to locate the different singers wonderfully. And all this unfolded with more space and depth, the strings always a little finer dissolved and the timpani with more fur. No matter what I heard, the innuOS rips sounded more natural than those with EAC.

But there was also the larger Zen Mk II. Also I connected it initially via USB 2.0 and LAN, then via the LAN output "Streamer". Result: even better. The Innuos Zen Mk II gave the voices even more naturalness and tonality was further improved. No matter what I heard, the sound was cleaner, cleaner and the timing better - which you can hear especially when playing piano. Bass runs became more structured. With acoustic guitars, the body had more "wood", more substance, and it was very easy to hear that a saxophone is a woodwind instrument. The resolution was even finer, there were more ramifications to hear. The stage presentation was also audible and deeper.

After being amazed at the sound increase compared to the "little one", I tried out the galvanically isolated output ... Yes, it was this exit that lifted me completely into the hi-fi sky. I listened to one album after another and could hardly separate myself from the music. Only when I noticed that it was already getting light outside...

As usual, the listening tests were done on LowBeats with the pre-amp SPL Director, the power amp Cambridge 851W and Nubert nuPower A and the Dynaudio Contour 20 as monitor. That always sounds overwhelmingly good. But of course it is also a few numbers smaller: Another great combination is the Zen Mini Mk II with the KEF LS 50 Wireless, which has already built the DAC and also offers more analog inputs.

This is - though so small - great cinema!

Conclusion Innuos Zen Mini Mk II and Zen Mk II:

The conclusion is short and concise: The Innuos music server Mk II are very innovative, incredibly fast and can be fantastically easy to use. They have a convincing sound quality and an ingenious price / performance ratio.

Any questions?

Maybe this: Is the gain in tonal substance from Zen Mini to Zen worth the extra cost of almost 1,000 euros? I mean yes. We are in HiFi / High End and such sound enhancements are paid much more expensive elsewhere.

We gave both music servers, the Zen Mini Mk II and the Zen Mk II, the very high rating of 4.8 stars. Because sound and concept are convincing in all respects and the price for both is extremely fair. 

4 OWNER 5 STAR REVIES

The Innuos Zen Mini Mk3 is a fabulous CD ripper/server solution in particular in conjunction with say a Sonos multi-room or AV system. Once installed it is a simple matter of inserting any new CDs into the Zen Mini and then popping them back into their cases once it ejects them. The music will then be available to your home music system!

With the Zen Mini Mk3, there is no need for discs. No computer required for ripping or file conversion. No waiting for tunes to transfer to your network hard drive. No need to dedicate hours to setting everything up. In fact, no excuse for neglecting your CD collection any longer.

The Zen Mini virttually silent in operation (having absolutely no fans) meaning you can place it confidently in your living room where it will quietly stream your music away.

The Zen Mini Mk3 supports almost every audio device out there so it will deliver multi-room audio to your Sonos system, stream high-resolution audio via UPnP to your Naim or Linn Music Streamer and even act as a music player connecting to an USB DAC and your Hi-Fi! 

The Zen Mini Mk3 is vastly more powerful than most NAS devices on the market, so no matter how large your music library is, the Mini Mk3 will provide a great user experience.

The latest Zen ranges from Innuos have advanced in three key design areas: minimising power noise, reducing vibration and optimising firmware, resulting in the entire range seeing a sizeable step-up in terms of performance

ZEN Mini Mk3 has the following new features;
Custom motherboard with dual ethernet ports - Optimisation for audio performance and network passthrough to nearby network devices.
Optical and coaxial SPDIF digital outputs
Optional Linear Power Supply upgrade - Improve sound quality using an external LPSU upgrade in matching chassis, backward compatible with the ZENmini MkII as well!

Shearn C
 

3 months ago

I saw this at the Launch at the Bristol Hi Fi show, I had it in my head that I was going for a standard streamer however this entry level music server was such great value for money it was a no brainier. Very pleased great addition to my Set up.

Compact sounds great.
I find iPeng a little clunky
BARKER K
 

3 months ago

The solution I needed was a CD ripper with a data storage facility all in one to contain a collection of about 2.5k CD's at the highest resolution possible with back up facility also. The device required to be intuitive and usable enough by a person of limited IT ability with excellent connectivity to support it. It also needed to be played through a Naim Mu-So. Having set out the requirement the Innuos fulfils this requirement completely with access easily effected via iPhone/iPad and with WAV level recordings about 3-5 minutes per CD. Playback is noticeably an improvement on Spotify level sound to the point I have now subscribed to Tidal. This Innuos is a a very commendable device.

Ease of use, quality of playback, intuitive use, excellent connectivity, facility to back up, plenty of memory
You do need to ensure connectivity is optimised e.g. ADSL cabling direct to router
Rev C
 

5 months ago

Easy to install and put music into and sounds great.

This is a simple unit to operate and whilst it does allow the option of the DAC of your choice it has an internal DAC which is none too shabby in its own right. I am enjoying rediscovering my music.

I copied over my digital music and that took some time. It also highlighted where double albums or box sets were captured differently by the Innuos from my previous streamer. Not a big deal but means a bit of housekeeping.

Overall, very pleased and glad I made the upgrade

Sounds great
Does highlight if your digital music library is not well organised
DrRoy
 

8 months ago

Compact, great sound and excellent connectivity. Almost silent operation apart from the fairly quiet hard disc. Excellent management software that copes so much better with disc display than many manufacturer apps. I would like to be able to control my Naim Streamer via this App - slicker than Naim's by a mile.

Great sound and software
Would like it to control the streamer too
 

I would highly recommend auditioning the Innuos line of music servers and for those looking to incorporate a music server into their system, be sure to add Innuos to your shortlist.
third_eye

Conclusion: Going in to this review, I was already aware of the advantages of using a music server and yet my experience with the Innuos Zenith MK3 has been revelatory. The convenience of having your entire music library and streaming services incorporated into one unit with the ability to control remotely with a mobile device is substantial. More importantly, there are significant sound quality gains to be had by using a digital transport solution like the Innuos MK3 with a lower noise floor and a more organic, natural sound that sounds more focused and unconstrained at the same time. I would highly recommend auditioning the Innuos line of music servers and for those looking to incorporate a music server into their system, be sure to add Innuos to your shortlist.

REVIEW: Innuos Zenith MK3 - High End Music Server Introduction
A friend once told me the old audiophile adage “everything matters”. For Head-Fiers, a common topic of conversation has traditionally revolved around the level of importance attributed to individual pieces making up the audio chain. This usually translates to how to best to divide the pie between the headphones, headphone amplifier, DAC, with source and cables also factoring in to the equation.

As audiophiles transitioned from albums to CD’s and and increasingly over the past few years to music files and streaming, a common goal amongst audio enthusiasts remains the pursuit of the most faithful reproduction of the recording in order to get as close to the music as possible. Many today are using streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz, and/or are using their lossless music files stored on an external hard drive. To this end, companies are developing dedicated music server and streaming products that attempt to solve the most common problem of computer based music systems, that of noisy USB connections, jitter, and other electrical noise.

The objective of music servers is to reduce the noise floor as much as possible and to provide a clear improvement over a direct USB connection to a computer. Or even better, to remove the computer and external hard drive altogether and have a dedicated device that provides a complete digital transport solution.

As people increasingly interact with their phones and tablets, forward thinking companies are developing products that users can interface with regardless of device being used. One of the biggest highlights at CanJam NYC 2019 was a company from Portugal called Innuos. Over the past couple of years, Innuos has been making waves with their Music Servers that come in 3 basic levels, ZENMINI, ZEN, and ZENITH as well as their flagship product, the Statement. This review is focused on the Zenith MK3, although the setup, user interface, and CD drive operation is the same across all of the Innuos product lines.

[​IMG]

The Innuos Zenith MK3 is a high end music server (MSRP: $4249) that enables the complete management of a music library that is stored on internal SSD storage as well as the streaming of popular audiophile music services like Tidal and Qobuz. In other words, this is a dedicated computer for your music library that has a quad-core CPU, 8GB or RAM, a size configurable internal SSD drive to store music, a CD drive to rip CD’s into the SSD drive, and also streams music service such as Tidal or Qobuz. The Zenith MK3 is then operated on your computer (via Roon or Windows compatible app), or tablet/mobile device with approved apps for iOs (iPeng) or Android (Orange Squeeze).

Setup
Opening the box reveals a full rack size component measuring 16.5” wide, 12.5” deep, 2.75” tall and weighing in at a hefty 20 lbs. The unit has a sturdy, high quality build with a sculpted, silver faceplate that has a CD drive slot on the top left side and a single power button on the bottom right. The power button also incorporates a single LED status indicator which can also be configured to display different LED colors to suit user preferences, a small but nice touch.

[​IMG]

[​IMG]

The Zenith MK3 was simple to set up with a few cable connections and is configured online at my.innuos.com. It requires a wired Network cable connection which connects the LAN port on the Innuos unit to a router or mesh wifi satellite. Then the DAC is connected via USB to the DAC port on the Innuos. Finally, the power cable is attached and the unit can be powered on and configured.

[​IMG]

The Innuos Dashboard at my.innuos.com is the homepage to manage the music library, configure music subscription services and to make changes to the unit’s settings. Once the connections have been made and the unit powered on, the unit will automatically connect and show the online status of the unit.

[​IMG]

The next step is to add music to the library. This is done by using the Import Menu which enables the transfer of music files from external hard drives or using the Disk Ripper function to rip CD’s into the unit’s internal solid state drive. In both cases, this is a seamless and fast process. Lastly, music streaming services can be configured in the Settings menu where I added my user credentials for Tidal and Qobuz.

[​IMG]

There are two main ways to use the Zenith MK3 both of which can be easily toggled in the Music Server Settings on the my.innuos.com homepage. The first is using Roon to manage the music library, the main benefit of this approach is the ability to use Roon’s highly advanced user interface. The second method is using the integrated Squeezebox player that can be controlled remotely on a mobile device using iPeng (for iOS devices) and Orange Squeeze (for Android devices). For the moment, using your desktop computer is limited to Windows users, with dedicated Innuos app/playback software in the works to fill this gap.

[​IMG]

To sum up, all of your music, whether your own music files or your subscription based services can now be managed from one source and one user interface. Very cool.

[​IMG]

Sound Impressions
Managing your entire music library from a mobile device makes for a fluid and convenient user experience but how does it sound and is there really an improvement over using a regular computer/external hard drive solution or other lower cost streaming solutions?

Before integrating the Zenith MK3 into my system, I was running Roon using a Sonore microRendu streamer with an upgraded Uptone Audio LPS-1 power supply. This system is a clear upgrade over a traditional DAC to USB connection with my computer with better dynamics, and a more focused image coming across. The music sounds less “stressed” and more free flowing enabling longer listening sessions without fatigue. This is mainly due to the reduction in jitter and noise that streaming solution provide.

The system used to evaluate the Innuos unit was a Chord Electronics Hugo 2 feeding the Benchmark HPA4 line amplifier using its headphone amplifier and at times feeding the DNA Stratus 2A3 headphone amplifier. Headphones used were the Hifiman Susvara and HE1000SE, Abyss Diana Phi, and MrSpeakers Ether 2.

Replacing the Sonore microRendu steamer with the Innuos Zenith MK3 takes the improvement gains from the microRendu streamer and expands on it in a significant way. Everything sounds cleaner, more in focus, snappier, with an even blacker background due to the low noise floor. Music sounds smoother but without the loss of resolution or detail. It just sounds more real. The difference was not subtle for me and was comparable to the sound quality gains from going from a budget DAC to a higher end DAC.

I used the unit in two types of configurations. The first was using Roon as the endpoint so the entire interface and remote is handled within the Roon environment. This method offers the best user experience as Roon can be seamlessly operated on your desktop or mobile device with the polish associated with the Roon user interface.

The second configuration was using the Innuos software and Orange Squeeze as a remote interface on my Android mobile device. This setup offers a slightly more organic sound that can be described as even smoother and more natural sounding. Switching between the two configurations is seamless and done via the Music Server Integration menu in the Settings tab on the Innuos homepage.

Overall, I preferred the slightly more organic nature of the sound signature using the internal Innuos configuration over the Roon configuration but preferred the user interface and overall experience of using the Roon configuration. Innuos is planning to release its own player and app later this year so that solution will likely be the best of both worlds.

Conclusion
Going in to this review, I was already aware of the advantages of using a music server and yet my experience with the Innuos Zenith MK3 has been revelatory. The convenience of having your entire music library and streaming services incorporated into one unit with the ability to control remotely with a mobile device is substantial. More importantly, there are significant sound quality gains to be had by using a digital transport solution like the Innuos MK3 with a lower noise floor and a more organic, natural sound that sounds more focused and unconstrained at the same time. I would highly recommend auditioning the Innuos line of music servers and for those looking to incorporate a music server into their system, be sure to add Innuos to your shortlist.

I can’t think of anything in this price class which can touch it in that regard. Factor in exceptional CD ripping and the surprisingly excellent Roon experience, and we end up with a rather compelling device which represents “trickle down”
John Grandberg

Conclusion: If it wasn’t already obvious, the Innuos Zen Mini MK3 gets high marks when used in the proper context. I really do recommend the upgraded power supply if possible, though it’s nice that users on a budget can stagger the purchase. Whether used as a transport or via its analog outoput, the double-stack offers gratifying sound with a particularly strong sense of spaciousness – I can’t think of anything in this price class which can touch it in that regard. Factor in exceptional CD ripping and the surprisingly excellent Roon experience, and we end up with a rather compelling device which represents “trickle down”

Not long ago, I reviewed the Nativ Vita – a powerhouse music server with large hi-res touch screen, support for over a dozen streaming services, and vast connectivity. Even more recently, our publisher spent some time with the Auralic Altiar G1, which takes a somewhat different approach yet still arrives absolutely brimming with functionality. Streaming and file-based-playback capabilities have even found their way into our integrated amplifiers, as documented by Phil Wright’s Ayre EX8 covrage. And despite vinyl enjoying something of a renaissance, and the compact disc still hanging around (more in certain regions than others), file-based playback is clearly in very high demand.

Not all of these features are useful to all people. I know more than a few music lovers who are plenty technically inclined, and do enjoy a streaming service or two, yet have no use for Bluetooth, AirPlay, touchscreen controls, WiFi or headphone outputs. These folks want a more straight forward device to serve as a dedicated digital transport, collecting and organizing their music library and serving it up headlessly i.e. without a directly attached screen for black-box library management and music delivery.

Innuos may have just the right solution in their ZEN Mini MK3 the gateway to their ZEN range of server/streamers.

The ZEN Mini MK3 is absolutely not a feature-light proposition. Rather, it focusses on delivering what I’ll call the “core” music server functionality, to the fullest and without too much additional complexity. But I realize one person’s “extras” maybe someone else’s “essential features”, thus each reader must judge for themselves whether their needs line up with what Innuos has to offer.

So just what exactly does the Zen Mini MK3 do? It’s a streamlined music server which runs a custom audio-oriented operating system for exceptional sound quality and ease of use. It has a built-in drive for ripping CDs. It works as a Roon Core or Roon Endpoint, as well as supporting UPnP mode and even a Sonos mode for people invested in that ecosystem. It stores music on its internal drive but can also stream from a local network storage – whether that’s a dedicated NAS or just a network share on your PC/Mac/Linux machine. It also streams from Tidal, Qobuz, and Spotify, and can do internet radio stations too – some of which broadcast in lossless quality these days. All of this comes in a compact, fanless package that should be simple to integrate into most any system.

Design
The Zen Mini MK3 is equipped with 1TB worth of onboard storage, with more storage (up to 8TB) available for an additional cost. Measuring just 8.4 inches wide, 9.5 inches deep, and under 3 inches tall, the smallest (and most Kallaz-Fi friendly) Innuos server is not much larger than the other Mini. That’d be Apple’s Mac Mini, which for years was popular as a music server but significantly less so as of its 2018 refresh – blame a combination of stubborn USB audio issues plus a lack of aftermarket modding support. With the Apple and Innuos’ prices landing in the same ballpark, I’ve long felt a dedicated device such as the Zen Mini makes more sense than a tweaked Mac Mini; and from what I’ve read on various forums, it seems many folks are now arriving at that same conclusion.

The jump from Zen Mini MK2 to MK3 brought a host of improvements. The most significant change is the switch from an off-the-shelf motherboard to a custom design, optimized for audio performance. That optimization extends to the Ethernet input and we also get a handy Ethernet output which serves as a passthrough for another network device for easy system integration. Gone are the vestigial computer ports from prior models, replaced by far more useful Toslink and coaxial digital outputs. There’s also an RCA analog out – yes, the Zen Mini MK3 has an integrated DAC onboard, which appears to be a first for Innuos. A subtly redesigned chassis houses floating storage and optical drives, reducing vibration and thus mitigating its negative sonic impact.

Innuos didn’t specify the CPU model used in the ZEN Mini MK2, but my sources indicate it was an Intel J1900. The MK3 update brings a newer Intel N4200 into play, which is both faster and more efficient than the J1900 and offers a maximum thermal footprint of just 6 watts. RAM is also doubled from 2GB to 4GB — a number previously only seen in the full-sized ZEN models. That might not sound like much but, remember, Innuos units are streamlined purpose-built devices. In base form, power is supplied by an external power brick, but the MK3 permits upgrading by adding a matching external linear power supply .

Software
While it’s easy to think of devices like this from a hardware standpoint only, that really only covers part of the equation. Just as important for sound quality is the software side. The InnuOS software platform is as beginner-friendly as it gets. Simply point a web browser at my.innuos.com and it will automatically find any ZEN devices on the same network. From there, we can rip CDs, manage the library, back it up to an external location or switch between several modes of operation: Roon Ready, Roon Core, UPnP and Squeezebox Server. Setup is simple enough but in the event of networking issues, the InnuOS system can be remotely accessed by Innuos’s technical support team. Once configured, the system is pretty much set-and-forget.

Let’s discuss ripping, as it is definitely a strong point of this device. Users can choose between WAV and FLAC encoding (I use the latter) and the entire process can be automated if you desire. Simply insert a disc, wait roughly 5 minutes for the process to complete, then remove the disc and repeat. A second slower, quieter ripping mode is handy for archiving one disc whilst listening to one already ripped.

Regular readers may recall my experience with the Nativ Vita and Nativ’s US$599 add-on CD drive. In comparison, the Zen Mini MK3 rips faster and is slightly less noisy even in standard mode. For metadata, Innuos uses the same FreeDB and MusicBrainz databases as Nativ, but also adds Discogs and GD3 — an additional pair of options seems to make all the difference to metadata supply: I could not find a single disc that the Zen Mini didn’t perfectly identify. This included underground trance, obscure metal and punk outfits and small-time releases from speciality audiophile labels. Classical and opera buffs may eventually find something to complain about (those genres being notoriously difficult) but, so far, I have yet to find anything which causes the ZEN Mini MK3 to flinch.

Users with existing libraries can import their collection via network transfer or direct USB drive attachment. Here, the InnuOS software proved slightly less successful at properly identifying my data. It wasn’t bad by any means but did occasionally seem confused by compilations, classical releases and more obscure artists. In this respect, InnuOS’ performance seems on par with other big players such as Auralic and Aurender – they each do a generally good job, but none are perfect. Obviously, this could partially be blamed on the provenance of the collection and its existing metadata. And for Roon users, this portion doesn’t apply – Roon does a superlative job of organizing my collection, and I did most of my evaluation using Roon.

Listening
I’m continually reminded that transport quality is an important factor in a higher-end system. Any old disc spinner or computer can functionally accomplish the task, but that only puts the downstream DAC at a disadvantage. While most DACs these days contain at least some provision for jitter reduction, relatively few properly address incoming electrical noise or other contamination. Experience says that I hear better sound quality when providing the DAC with as clean and accurate a signal as possible. That’s the ZEN Mini MK3’s other intent: it is designed to maximize the performance of any directly-attached DAC.

My evaluation setup varied as the months went by. The Innuos started out serving data to the excellent MacIntosh MHA, which in turn supplied the Gallo Strada 2 loudspeakers with 50 watts per channel of solid-state grunt – perfect for midfield listening in my modestly-sized room. All cabling was from Audio Art, with the exception of a Silver Reference USB leash from the (now defunct) Cabledyne brand. After sending my evaluation MHA150 back to McIntosh, I swapped in another versatile machine – the S3 DAC/headphone amplifier from Keces Audio. Lastly, I threw in my Pass Labs HPA-1 headphone amplifier and fed it from a rotating cast of DACs: Exogal Comet Plus, BMC UltraDAC, and my current affordable bang-for-buck champion, the Airist R-2R. Headphones used included the Meze Empyrean, Audeze LCD-Z4, Sony MDR-Z1R, Sennheiser HD6XX and Fostex TH-X00.

My first impression of the Innuos box, heard through the McIntosh/Gallo setup, was that of a very spacious and open performer; a sort of “reach out and touch it” situation which, in my experience, remains primarily the domain of a really well-sorted system. To look at things from another angle, this is often the first casualty when a weak-link is introduced to the chain. And sure enough, by switching to a pedestrian laptop as USB source, the presentation felt flatter and drew player outlines with more obvious blur. The Strada 2 speakers did their best with dispersion width, but the sound lacked the Innuos clarity with layering, scale and image specificity. Clearly, the Zen Mini MK3 was letting the McIntosh perform to its best ability and outplays a consumer-grade computer, designed for a multitude of task, not just music playback.

Switching to headphones (still powered by the McIntosh) continued the same trend of open, three-dimensional sound. The Meze Empyrean, in particular, was able to do that spooky “out-of-head” thing where sounds seem to originate from far outside the bounds of the headphone. Whether playing Mozart, Meshuggah or Mutemath, the openness of the presentation was very much the prominent feature.

Other, more basic aspects of the sound signature were also excellent – incisive top end, beautiful, expressive midrange, convincing bass impact. These attributes obviously vary based on one’s chain of equipment, but the Innuos is certainly capable of unleashing them if the rest of the chain is on board. Yet I kept going back to the open, spacious aspect as being the most prominent character trait of the Zen Mini MK3.

Swapping out the McIntosh for the more affordable Keces S3 DAC/headphone amp brought more of the same. While it didn’t quite have the same dynamic gusto as the larger MHA150, it wasn’t terribly far behind either. I noted just a bit of treble hardness this time around, which made itself more apparent with certain headphones than others. Still, that was far from a deal-breaker, and I continued to enjoy that lifelike three-dimensionality I’ve been raving about. For a simple yet superb 2-box system, this pair seems like an excellent choice for headphone users, and the S3’s is well proportioned to the Zen Mini MK3.

From there, changes came rather quickly. I rotated DACs in and out, monitoring through the incisive Pass Labs amplifier and ultra-revealing Audeze LCD-24 headphones. Opinions began to solidify. Regardless of DAC used, I felt USB was the most insightful connection choice by a small but noticeable margin. That amount varied from DAC to DAC, and in some cases, the coaxial trailed by mere inches, so it’s not as if coax is a terrible choice by any means. But I did later confirm with Innuos head-honcho Nuno Vitorino that USB is theoretically best from a hardware standpoint, so users should plan on trying that one first.

In terms of sonic signature, it seems the Innuos “house sound” is centred around soundstage spaciousness and imaging precision. Compared to the Nativ Vita, the Zen Mini MK3 feels more open and airy, but also has less meat-on-the-bone. Not to say the Innuos is “thin” per se, just that tonal richness takes something of a back seat comparatively. Here, system matching becomes important, to say nothing of one’s general sonic priorities.

For me, jazz and classical and various acoustic works tended to benefit most from having Innuos at the helm. It made the Vita feel somewhat closed-in, a bit dull and even “small” at times. Yet throwing on some Black Flag, Homeboy Sandman, or Crystal Castles, I preferred the Vita’s relatively thicker tonality and rhythmic drive. Since this sort of music makes up the bulk of my listening, the Nativ Vita would more often than not be the better fit for me; but that could just as easily be reversed for someone else. And certain music, such as the quirky electronica of Minotaur Shock or almost any 70’s era classic rock, could go either way – was I in the mood for a more solid, grounded presentation, or did I want it light, open, and airy? Both were certainly valid choices. Keep in mind the Nativ Vita starts at uS$1599 with no onboard storage and adds another US$599 for the external disc drive – the Innuos has nothing to be ashamed of here.

Roon
I’ve use a powerful Xeon-based machine as my Roon server. With 6 cores/12 threads and 64GB RAM, this thing can handle pretty much anything I throw at it – major DSD upsampling, headphone crossfeed and EQ, and as many zones as I want all playing at the same time. The ZEN Mini MK3 is comparatively primitive in terms of processing power, so I wasn’t sure how well it would handle these functions, or even how it would cope with a large music library. Remember that Roon recommends solid-state drives for database duty (even if the actual library itself lives elsewhere), and Innuos has a slower, spinning-platter drive onboard. Is the Zen Mini MK3 capable enough to offer a quality Roon experience?

The answer is mostly yes. I loaded the internal drive with over 800GB worth of music, representing roughly two thousand albums in a mixture of CD quality, hi-res PCM, and DSD. Navigation felt snappy enough, with a barely noticeable bit of lag that I probably wouldn’t recognize if I wasn’t used to my powerful server. Clicking “play” did not result in the practically immediate playback that I’m used to, but neither was it intrusively slow – think (modern) CD player reaction times and you’ll be on the right track. Overall I found the experience perfectly acceptable with a library of this size, though I can’t say how doubling or quadrupling the music collection might impact things. Interestingly, browsing Qobuz (still within Roon, of course) didn’t feel much different at all compared to my powerful server. I suspect this is due to the latency of using their streaming catalog versus my own local storage.

As for the more advanced features, the Zen Mini MK3 is capable of handling them up to a certain point. DSD64 and DSD128 upsampling are easily within reach, while DSD256 was mostly fine save for the occasional dropout. I suggest trying higher PCM rates instead, which are often overlooked but can sound excellent with certain DACs – the device has no problem upsampling to 384kHz and beyond. It had no trouble running the Audeze presets, and was happy with basic EQ functionality. I also played 3 different zones simultaneously and the system handled that without issue.

The main limitation has to do with combining these functions all at once. If you wanted 3 zones, but also wanted complex EQ on some of them and DSD upsampling on others, you’d find the little Innuos quickly running out of steam. So let your specific usage be your guide on this front. Then again, Innuos supports Roon Endpoint mode if users ever outgrow its server capabilities.

Upgrades
Circling back to the matching extrenal linear power supply, you’ll note that it appears in most of the pictures featured here. That’s because once added, I dreaded going back to the standard switch-mode solution. Not because the Zen Mini MK3 sounds poor in stock form, but rather because the device takes a significant leap upwards with the LPSU in play.

The Innuos combo stack brings more solidity and tonal lushness to the table. I still wouldn’t call it thick or warm in absolute terms, but it fleshed things out enough to where I no longer felt I was missing anything. And this took place without impacting the expansive soundstage presentation, which now felt more enveloping. This was an engaging, tactile experience which felt as much at home with the  Keces S3 as it did with the US$8,000 BMC/Pass Labs setup.

Now, forced to choose between the Nativ Vita and the upgraded Zen Mini stack, the decision becomes much more difficult. The Innuos nails the spaciousness aspect whilst no longer losing ground on sonic density. The argument then shifts to cover art display, with the Vita’s integrated touchscreen, controls battling the Zen’s iPad-based remote, as well as various extra features like Bluetooth and support for more streaming services. Both devices make very compelling cases for themselves and I could live happily ever after with either.

The Bonus
Remember the ZEN Mini’s analog output? It’s a first for Innuos. My first impression of it was somewhat underwhelming. With the switch mode power supply, it brought to mind the analog output of the old Squeezebox Touch – pretty respectable inner detail and leading-edge reproduction, yet obviously lacking in acoustic mass. I found this perfectly acceptable on the Squeezebox Touch, but the ZEN Mini MK3 sells for four times the price. This function is useful for background music or for pairing with entry-level gear but it might introduce a qualitative bottleneck to more capable systems.

Things took a drastic turn when returning the LPSU to the mix. Now, this was a sound I could enjoy even with more potent ancillary gear. The lower octaves took on a solidity they had previously lacked, digital glare was toned down significantly and I even caught glimpses of that open, spacious feeling which consistently appeared via the digital outputs. To revisit the Logitech analogy – this would be my blast-from-the-past Bolder Audio modded Squeezebox Touch with external Channel Islands linear power supply, needing no apologies for its sonic prowess.

The takeaway? Running the Zen Mini MK3/LPSU combo without an external DAC actually becomes a reasonable proposition. Adding a budget device like the iFi iDAC2 or Parasound zDAC V.2 feels different but not necessarily better, whilst the Mytek Liberty adds subtle improvements which certainly aren’t night and day. The ZEN’s Texas Instruments PCM5102-based internal DAC is expressive and generally competent enough to hold most listeners over until they can afford a really serious DAC offering a clear upgrade, at which point the Innuos stack could still be quite useful as a zone source for another room. I would like to see Innuos add the onboard DAC to the next generation of full-size ZEN models. It really is impressive once decoupled from the Mini’s stock SMPS.

Conclusion
If it wasn’t already obvious, the Innuos Zen Mini MK3 gets high marks when used in the proper context. I really do recommend the upgraded power supply if possible, though it’s nice that users on a budget can stagger the purchase. Whether used as a transport or via its analog outoput, the double-stack offers gratifying sound with a particularly strong sense of spaciousness – I can’t think of anything in this price class which can touch it in that regard. Factor in exceptional CD ripping and the surprisingly excellent Roon experience, and we end up with a rather compelling device which represents “trickle down”

In the end, I was completely unfamiliar with just about everything in this room. But it didn’t matter. The total effect was mesmerizing.
Scott Hull

Well Pleased AV vwas showcasing some spectacular sound, courtesy of some Qin loudspeakers, their Prestige Three floor standers. Some details: 8Ω, 87dB, down to 28Hz, $9,999/pair. Unassuming appearance, but with spooky-good imaging, the Qln speakers made the music eye-poppingly entertaining, and the overall sound in the room was a strong entry for best-in-show.

The other leading-role lineup in this room included the GigaWatt PC-4 EVO+ power conditioner, of special interest (at least to me) was the new INNUOS Statement Music Server.

This new two-box solution has been rumored for some time, so it was a real pleasure to see it land here, and to such great effect. The Statement is a music server, pushed all to the 9’s — the massive power supply has (8) independent power rails to feed all the relevant parts of the server.
Clean power to the USB board.
Clean power to the clock.
Clean power to your toaster.
It’s clean power everywhere. The clock, which handles Ethernet and USB inputs, is a 3ppb OCXO to vanquish jitter and “phase noise”. The over-built custom motherboard design is intended to sequester and eliminate EMI. And the angles on the face plate look all fancy. And did I mention there’s an App?

I’ve been on the hunt for a computer-audio “transport”, and my good friend Mark Sossa has been unequivocal and unwavering in his support for the Innuous brand, which is laudable, but he’s been downright googly-eyed about the Statement, so I am very curious if this might be a legit stand-in for a state-of-the-art music server, one that can handle quad-DSD, MQA, stream Tidal and Qobuz, and has the horsepower to be a Roon Server. Is my hunt over? No idea. But I hope to try one of these out soonest — I’ll be sure to report back if all this manages to go down.

In the end, I was completely unfamiliar with just about everything in this room. But it didn’t matter. The total effect was mesmerizing.

The Innuos ZEN Mini MKII is innovative, very fast, easy to use, has a convincing sound quality and in addition excellent value for money with 6 out of 6 points. A device for music lovers with claim. HiFi IFAs highlight!
BERND WEBER

CONCLUSION: No matter what I heard, the sound was cleaner and cleaner, the timing better, which was especially good with the piano. Bass runs became more structured. For acoustic guitars, the body had more "wood," just as it was heard that a saxophone is a woodwind instrument. Voices sounded cleaner and finer, eg. For example, the tremolo by Haris or the breath of Diana Krall. The stage presentation was also audible and deeper. Ok, sonically, he does not quite get to his big brother, compared to my QNAP he is definitely a significant step forward. 
The Innuos ZEN Mini MKII is innovative, very fast, easy to use, has a convincing sound quality and in addition excellent value for money with 6 out of 6 points. A device for music lovers with claim. HiFi IFAs highlight!

REVIEW (Gerrman to English translation via Google): Innuos ZEN Mini MKII (since replaced by new MkIII version): 
The Innuos music server ZEN Mini MK II is the little brother of the ZEN MKII, about which I have already reported. The functions and the innuOS operating system are the same. He also rips CDs, NAS and Streamer. Internet radio reception is also possible.

The irregular "creases" of the elegant stable Alufront loosen up the front with the Slotin drive succeeded. The Mini has half the width of classic hi-fi systems and is built very solid, the lid is therefore less susceptible to resonance, and not insulated from the inside as in the larger brother ZEN II.

On the back are the connections for the external power supply, 2 USB sockets 2.0 & 3.0 (for Back-Up & DAC), 1 LAN port and service sockets. The solid power supply was outsourced to external, so it does not cause interference in the small housing of the Mini.

In terms of hardware, an Intel CPU with Quad Core and 2 GB RAM are installed, which promise to work fast. The fanless ZEN Mini is very quiet. In addition, the optional 1 TB or 2 TB hard drive and also the slot-in drive from TEAC are mounted floating. So you can rip CDs while listening in peace. The reading is done fully automatically, but it can also be accompanied with the assistant. The import of music to external USB drives or NAS in the domestic network is very quiet.

Connected via LAN to the home network, the operation is done via the browser on mobile or tablet, you just enter my.innuos.com, and you're done in the clear user interface, finished. Here then the various settings are determined, such. For example, the ribs as .flac or .wav or the rip speed. Network settings? Are not required, the operating system innuOS does it fully automatically.

The names of the artists, titles as well as covers are taken from different databases. If no network is available when ripping, that's not a big deal, the software on all ZEN music servers will load the metadata the next time it's connected to a LAN. If the databases do not provide a cover, you can import them yourself, also the metadata can be easily edited. Duplicate or faulty albums are stored in the "Quarantine" folder. If they have been corrected there, they will be moved to the library after clicking on the save button. High-Res albums will be marked separately. You can also download the albums (also zipped) from Qobuz, Amazon, Tidal and other providers.

The innuOS software contains a UPnP server. Naim, Linn, Moon, Auralic, Denon HEOS and others are supported. The connection with the Sonos system is also possible.

The ZEN Mini MKII is connected to an external DAC via USB cable. So connected the music is played through an app (iPeng, Orange Squeeze etc.). Likewise, it can be accessed via the apps via USB streaming streamer. If you are looking for a minimalistic hi-fi system with good sound and comfort, simply connect it to a pair of active speakers with DAC.

An example of the Innuos ZEN on the hi-fi days 2017 in Hamburg with KEF LS50 wireless

When retrieving the music albums via the app of my streamer I was stunned by the rapid access times to the music albums on the ZEN, because my QNAP is much more comfortable on the way! The arguments from my circle of acquaintances that they would like to hear music about this kind of technique was too complicated for that.

Not only that, but also the sound of the albums read with the Innuos software was audibly better than my previous rips with laptop and EAC, at first I could hardly believe it, but after reading several CDs and with those that I read via laptop and EAC ripped, had compared, it was official, even with zeros and ones there are differences!

 

No matter what I heard, the sound was cleaner and cleaner, the timing better, which was especially good with the piano. Bass runs became more structured. For acoustic guitars, the body had more "wood," just as it was heard that a saxophone is a woodwind instrument. Voices sounded cleaner and finer, eg. For example, the tremolo by Haris or the breath of Diana Krall. The stage presentation was also audible and deeper. Ok, sonically, he does not quite get to his big brother, compared to my QNAP he is definitely a significant step forward.

Formats: MP3, AAC, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, DSD, DXD, MQA. Sample rates: PCM up to 384 kHz 32 bit, DSD up to 256

Conclusion: 
The Innuos ZEN Mini MKII is innovative, very fast, easy to use, has a convincing sound quality and in addition excellent value for money with 6 out of 6 points. A device for music lovers with claim. HiFi IFAs highlight!

The Innuos Zen MkII makes a very good case for using a dedicated audio server rather than a NAS drive and network switch
Jason Kennedy

SUMMARY of MkII (since updated to MkIII veresion): The Innuos Zen MkII makes a very good case for using a dedicated audio server rather than a NAS drive and network switch, it sounds considerably better for one, making even a high end NAS seem distinctly crude by comparison. It also gives excellent results with both USB and Ethernet connections thanks to the efforts that the company has put into creating a quiet power supply and well isolated outputs. The onboard drive makes it easy to back up your disc collection and the styling is pretty cool, did I mention you can also change the colour of the LED?

REVIEW of ZEN MkII (since updated to MkIII version): very streaming system needs a library, not the sort that furnishes a room but typically a hard drive where all your music is stored. You can get by on streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal if you want more music but there’s a monthly fee and a quality compromise. Most digital music libraries are stored on a NAS or network attached server, a hard disk drive with a small computer running software that ‘serves’ the required music to the streamer when asked. NAS drives come in various shapes and prices and while more expensive than USB drives, cost rather less than most dedicated audio servers. That’s because they are produced in volume and don’t need to worry about being electrically quiet, they also have switched mode power supplies (SMPS) which are a major source of interference and to be avoided if you want great sound. Network audio systems also require a switch so that the NAS, router and streamer can work together and these are another source of noise, noise that’s added to the signal and fed back into the mains via another SMPS.

So you can see that the potential for undermining sound quality with streaming systems is quite high. One way to improve matter is so use linear power supplies with the peripherals and optical connections that provide a degree of isolation, another is to find a company that makes dedicated audio servers which have been built with sound quality in mind.

Innuos designs a range of streaming products for both audio and video in the UK an builds them in Portugal, a range that contains three Zen models of audio server with a built in disc drive. The Zen MkII is the middle model between the half width Mini Zen MkIII with 1TB HDD and the 1TB SSD equipped Zenith MkIII. I reviewed the Zenith last year and was impressed why what I heard, there is more to these stealthy servers than mere styling. Feature wise they offer both USB and network outputs, so you can use a USB DAC or a network streamer, more importantly you can also bypass a network switch because there are two Ethernet connections on the Zen, one for the network and one that’s dedicated to a streamer. The latter not only removes a source of noise from the signal path but also filters incoming noise.

 

 

A medical grade mains filter and linear power supply goes some way to keeping gremlins at bay, it has a quad core Intel CPU with 4GB of RAM and offers 2 GB of memory playback which means that any electrical noise generated by the spinning discs is kept under control. The Zen servers run InnuOS software which comprises a Linux system created specifically for audio purposes. The UI and music library software uses Squeezebox software which means you can use control apps created for that well established system. I used something called iPeng 9, an inexpensive and well thought out app for iOS that is a lot better than any other third party app I’ve tried. It allows access to internet radio and streaming services like Tidal if you have a subscription. Android users can drive it with Squeeze Commander.

Operation is slightly different to other servers that I’ve tried. When you want to put new albums on the library via the desktop of your computer, they need to go in the auto-import folder first. Then you go to the my.innuos.com page on a web browser that finds your server on the network and offers a variety of different settings including back-up, library (below) and quarantine, the latter containing problem titles, in my case these were mostly duplicates but also included a ‘damaged CD’ that I had ripped. Settings include ripping mode and speed, configuration for a Sonos library, how to play DSD and a variety of other options. You can choose between two ripping formats, WAV or full fat FLAC, that is totally uncompressed FLAC which most seem to agree is the best option from a sound and metadata perspective. To get your album files into the library, go to the import page and choose ‘from auto-import’, the Zen then looks at the metadata for the new albums and sorts them into files for standard and high resolution titles. Sometimes inevitably it can’t find them, in which case they go into the unsorted folder, these titles can usually be found with the app but are not as well filed, ending up in the unknown artist folder for instance. The web browser approach makes up for the absence of a screen on the server and associated navigation buttons, and in truth is a far easier and more comprehensive method for managing the device.

 

 

In the system the Zen performed very well via both USB and Ethernet connections, delivering a relaxed, open and well focused result with a range of different music. Timing is also good for the price, this is one area where digital sources regularly fall down and while I have heard better from a server, I haven’t done so at this price. What you want from a server is a quiet, reliable and easy to use source of data that your DAC or streamer can turn into an analogue signal. With a reasonably revealing system the differences between servers can be surprisingly large, the more affordable examples tend to sound more digital in the old fashioned sense of having a slight graininess, a distortion that’s more obvious in the treble but which pervades the entire spectrum. The Zen MkII does not have this quality, it is as clean and smooth as you like, which means that the music it supplies has a freedom from artifice, a naturalness in fact, that is hard to beat with other digital sources.

There is plenty of detail on offer which ensures pieces have all the vivacity, space and pace that they require to inspire you. This result was found with a lot of different tracks but Haydn’s String Quartets from the Norwegian 2L label made a very good case for both the Innuos and the Primare DAC30 I used with it. It delivered the music in full scale with full dynamics and excellent image depth yet in a relaxed, effortless fashion. It delivers shades of tone and three dimensionality that others near the price cannot match. 

 

I also enjoyed the fact that the iPeng app lets you search internet radio stations even if it can’t guarantee a steady feed from all of them, very little can in practise. But it’s a well thought out app that offers a variety of ways to look at your library.

With the Zen I got better results via Ethernet than USB when using a Lindemann Musicbook:25 DSD as a streamer and DAC. I don’t have the same cable type for both links but both are high end examples, Vertere HB-USB and Chord Co Sarum Super ARAY network cable. Ethernet seems to have an advantage in terms of timing in every instance that I’ve been able to make this comparison so this finding is not specific to the Innuos, but it does make a good case for using the streaming route.

The Innuos Zen MkII makes a very good case for using a dedicated audio server rather than a NAS drive and network switch, it sounds considerably better for one, making even a high end NAS seem distinctly crude by comparison. It also gives excellent results with both USB and Ethernet connections thanks to the efforts that the company has put into creating a quiet power supply and well isolated outputs. The onboard drive makes it easy to back up your disc collection and the styling is pretty cool, did I mention you can also change the colour of the LED?