Melco - moving up the range

I have a Melco N100 with a Plixir llinear P/S and USB connection to Chord Qutest DAC. I’m really happy with the performance and to be honest, being retired now, I really can’t sensibly afford to upgrade.

But, I’m curious as to what a more expensive Melco model might bring to the party. Would it be along the same lines as say upgrading from a Rega 3 to an LP12, ie. a fundamental improvement in musical performance?

In one way I don’t see any need at all to go beyond the N100. After all it is considered better than any laptop and people have used laptops with ultra high-end systems. Does anyone still use a laptop as a music server?

Just curious as to what I might be missing.

I don’t use a laptop, but a Mac Mini running Audirvana library/rendering software. It is headless (no screen, keyboard or mouse, just a squarish box about 20x20x3cm, virtually silent (apparently has a small low speed fan, but I’ve never heard it running). It is fully dedicated/optimised, bypassing its stock Apple sound components with dedicated USB bus output (nothing streamed across a network). When I first heard Dave at a dealer, using this as source (and through Bryston 4B power amp and PMC Fact 12 speakers), my final step was to also have a brief listen to a Melco (through Dave), when there was no evident difference in sound, though it was not an extensive comparison.

I know I am not alone on this forum in using a Mac Mini.

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Interesting. Yes I forgot to mention the Mac mini which I know many people do use. Interesting that you perceived no improvement with a Melco through the Dave.

My gut feeling is that if upgrading it would make more sense to stick with the N100 and upgrade to a Hugo TT. Then again I have read that some have preferred the Qutest to the Hugo TT!

In my experience the DAC is far more significant than the store/server/renderer, ND5XS DAC to Hugo quite marked improvement, Hugo (or TT) to Dave phenomenal. ND5XS renderer to Mac Mini/Audirvana marginal (through Hugo), and MM/A aganst Melco already mentioned in last post. Hugo to TT improvement was subtle, not “night and day” (unlike Dave compared to either), but then IIUC TT was much closer to Hugo in design, adding power supply and connections etc. N.B. that was Mk1 versions of Hugo & TT - I don’t know about TT2 -compared to Qutest: you’d have to hear.

I also haven’t compared bottom of range Melco with top, nor other products like Innuos, that some people say sounds better than Melco. N.B. Any differences fed over network to a streamer that some people reoprt, might not be the same as direct to DAC.

Thanks. It’s all hypothetical really as in our position it would be crazy to go any further. Especially since in reality I cannot fault our present system - there are no obvious weaknesses. It’s the first system I’ve owned where I can honestly say that I don’t feel that spending any more would be worthwhile.

Still curious though. Once an audiophile…

I have never done a back to back, but i would think the N100/Plixir would give the N10 H50 a close run for
its money. That only leaves you the new N1 or N5…….the latter i have yet to hear. The N1 is very nice step up from the N10 range, sounding more natural. Some of my ripped cd’s almost give the impression they have had some great remastering done…….though at £12k its a lot of money.

I added a bit more to last post.

In my case, any change to the store/renderer will be driven either by a desire to improve library handling or by the demise of the machine. Nothing pushing me to do anything in forseeable future.

Yes, a crazy expense for me, but then not entirely impossible either! I’m sure if I heard the N1 in my system I would want it. So I’d better not!

Which is really how I feel. Just a curiosity to find out where I could go if I was crazy enough to spend the money.

Melco used as player into usb to a dac is not the best . From the reviews I could read.
Its strength is the server / Nas.
A better dac in the OP case is also probably a better choice.
Or maybe go for something like an Innuos Pulse into Chord would certainly be better than Melco N100 used as transport.

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I found the N100 sounded far better when delivered over ethernet to a player, instead of via the N100’s dedicated usb connection. Delivered this way, as a network server, I’m dubious that the more expensive Melco offerings would offer any improvement over the N100.

Furthermore, the Melco app is abysmal and best avoided, if possible.

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I’ve heard this before, mentioned on here and also in some reviews. I can’t quite get my head around it. Firstly, Melco themselves make much of the USB output, suggesting that it is a far superior connection than through a network.

Secondly, it seems that used this way the Melco simply becomes a glorified NAS device and it’s player functionality, which is after all part of the package, becomes redundant. Seems to me that one may as well just buy a NAS drive and save a packet.

Thirdly, surely the results using a player depend mainly on the quality of that player. So yes, if buying a £10K player I would expect better results. But that’s hardly a fair comparison. But are we saying that using the N100 with, say, a sub £1K player would also be better than USB into a DAC?

It just seems to me instinctively that a direct USB connection to a DAC is preferable to streaming across a network.

How so? I’ve been using it for a couple of years now without issue. By contrast the Naim app for our two Muso QB 2’s is constantly giving trouble.

I would say looking at what you have, spending the money elsewhere would be a much better idea.
You really need a very revealing system to hear the benefits that a better melco will bring

The Naim app has a much smoother designed interface than Melco, but the Innuos Sense app is far superior; a delight to use. It integrates my server and Quobuz music and allows searching and selection in a variety of ways.

I understand your comments about the dedicated Melco usb interface, and it may be better higher up the range. However, I think content delivered over ethernet can be just as good and, yeah, why not get a cheap server. You would need to get a good player and I bought the Innuos Pulsar, which I think is financially preferable to the Innuos Statement server/player at more than double the price.

Maybe you can try a real only transport like Innuos Pulse, Lumin U1 mini, …into your Chord dac and keep the Melco as Nas/ Server ?
You will see if it enhances or not the sound quality.
All the reviews I could read on the Melco observe a superiority of Ethernet over usb. It’s perhaps not a coincidence.

It may be something I would experiment with if funds were not so restricted. However I like the simplicity of the USB connection. One reason I opted for the Melco was just that- the ability to connect direct to a DAC and not to stream over a network with all the attendant issues.

IIRC Melco has a dedicated ethernet output to go direct to a streamer as opposed to over a network. Is it this you have seen compared?Direct comparisons of Melco via USB to DAC vs Melco over ethernet to DAC aren’t possible as the the former will have to go through a renderer first.

Comparing Melco into a streamer’s DAC via usb (where the streamer does have a usb digital input) vs to the streamed via ethernet would let you compare renderers, when indeed it might be that streamer X’s renderer sounds better than the Melco’s …though whether due to the renderer or possibly any sound modification arising from any RF picked up by the respective cables is another matter… This last point of course opens a can of worms: Hugo was very vulnerable to RF. Dave far, far less. It seems likely that the first generation of Naim streamer DACs may have been, second less so, when fed through their ethernet inputs, but what about if fed via usb bypassing the rendering section?

The beauty of direct connection from store to renderer, and then renderer to DAC, is no network to contend with, with all its additional linkages, switches and multitudinous cables, all ready, willing and able to pick up or filter RF, or link to ground plane. I’ve no idea what parts are most critical, but keeping it simple reduces a lot of potential sources of influence, with all their associated huge variability (and often cost) in then seeking to tweak to tune the sound to taste.

It’s not my experience because I have no usb dac. But many different reviews tried to compare some dacs with usb output and streaming board into Melco , by usb and over Ethernet, and all the reviews pointed the superiority of the sound in Ethernet mode.
But it’s only in the case of Melco.

As for @PJL post above, when I suggested a better transport like Innuos Pulse or Lumin, they have a dedicated usb output to connect to an external dac. So these ones work really good in that way. But not Melco optimally, as its strength is over Ethernet with a streaming dac.

Clearly any comparison will depend on the renderer in the streamer (“streaming DAC”), and possibly on its DAC, but if that is a near universal finding it would suggest that the Melco’s renderer is sub-optimal. Maybe that explains some reports of Innuos sounding better than Melco, perhaps depending on how each is connected.

Well, that tends to reinforce the lean I had towards considering Innuos rather than Melco as a possible contender when the time comes to replace my Mac mini.

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The strength of the Melco as I see it, and why I purchased it, is that it is a combined one-box library/player solution which only needs a USB connection to a DAC. I did not want to get involved with streaming over a local network. One only needs to look here to see all the potential pitfalls and problems that can occur with this.

This makes the Melco a fundamentally different proposition to a streaming DAC. Here we require a separate storage library and server software, and the local network is in the signal path. To my mind using a Melco as a NAS drive is rather perverse. Half it’s functionality is discarded. Rather like buying a Solstice turntable and then ripping off the Arro arm and cartridge and replacing it with something else.

As I see it, those people that prefer the sound of the Melco when using a streamer are really just saying that they prefer the sound of that particular streamer to the sound of the Melco. Just as one person might prefer the sound of one streamer over another.

I reject the notion that the ‘Melco sounds better used over a network’. It is a pretty meaningless concept. One cannot use a Melco over a network without a streamer - it’s impossible. So what one is really doing is comparing the sound of various streamers to the sound of the Melco - which is not a network streamer. So do all streamers regardless of price sound better than all Melco’s regardless of price? I don’t know - but I seriously doubt it.