Digital Music Library
Melco are a Japanese company who manufacture a truly superb range of “Digital Music Libraries” with incredible performance with none of the compromise of traditional computer peripherals.
Since the launch of the original groundbreaking N1A back in 2014 the Melco range has evolved today into 5 different models, plus there are 3 add-on components that simply allow you to get the very best from your Melco.
Simply put, the range of Melco Music Libraries acts as a simple storage device to archive your digtal music collection – your CD rips, your High Resolution downloads and it can also act as a high resolution streamer with Tidal and Qobuz subscription based streaming services – brilliant for discovery of new music.
There are 3 primary models in the Melco line-up starting at £2149 for the N100 and extending to £12,000 for the flagship N1. The feature set is pretty much identical across the range, what differs is storage capacity, connectivity and of course performance.
Melco N100 – £2149 with 2TB HDD
Melco N50 H60 £2999 with a 6TB HDD
Melco N50 S38 – £4999 with a 3.84TB SSD
Melco N10/2 – £7399 for 5TB HDD or £9399 for 3.84 SSD (my demo N10/2 S38 is available to buy for £7000)
Melco N1 £11,995 with a 3.84TB SSD
Melco also have a further 4 models which greatly enhance the whole Melco ecosystem.
Melco E100 Expansion HDD (3TB) £1199
Melco D100 CD Ripping Drive £1149
Melco S100 Mk2 Network Audio Switch £2099
Melco S10 2 Box Network Audio Switch £4999
The D100 and S100 have both been incredibly popular and not just with Melco owners either, the D100 has proven itself to be the best CD ripping drive you can buy, regardless of whether it is connected to a Melco or a computer (using DB Poweramp or Exact Audio Copy). The S100 is also very popular, anyone who streams music can take advantage of the merits of an S100, it’s not subtle and always takes people by surprise, the S100 has been popular with existing Melco owners, but it has been even more popular with owners of other network streamers, like Naim, Linn, Pink Faun, Lumin, Aurender etc
USB DAC or Network Player?
You can connect your Melco into either a USB DAC or a Network Player, depending on your system and preference.
Each Melco model has a dedicated USB port for connecting to a DAC and also a second Ethernet port, labelled ‘Player’
If you are using a Network Player (like a Vitus RI-101 DAC Streamer, Naim NDX2 or Linn DSM) you connect it directly to the Melco Player Port, so it isn’t connected directly to your network, but instead via the Melco. It still remains connected to the outside world for updates, streaming and you control it using the app you have always used, nothing changes in terms of how it works, but the Player port will improve performance.
If you have a USB DAC it’s simply a case of connecting it to your DAC with an appropriate USB cable and away you go. In terms of controlling your N1 there are plenty of options – Melco have their own app (iPad only) and there is also JPLAY, Linn, Lumin, MConnect, Bubble UPnP and Music Cast.
Within each of these apps you can stream from Qobuz and Tidal and if using the Melco app you can use vTuner as well.
All Melco models that are running EX firmware (firmware starts with 4.xx) are fully certified Roon Endpoints when using with a USB DAC.
Roon is a brilliant interface to control your music, it integrates your own music on the Melco with your streaming account (Tidal and Qobuz) and combines them into 1 library. It recommends new music based on what you have listened to and curates your library in a very unique and powerful way, making suggesting on what to listen to and reminding you about music you may well have forgotten you owned.
In order to run Roon you need an active subscription and you also need a computer that is capable of running Roon Core. You can use a computer in the house, but it best if you run Roon Core from a dedicated ‘always on’ machine such as a Roon Nucleus or an Intel NUC.
The requirement of a Roon Core is a downside for many people, but when you have experienced how good the Roon interface is it is often difficult to move away from!
Minimserver 2 and SongKong
All of Melco models comes with Minimserver 2 and Song Kong pre-loaded.
Minimserver 2 is a very powerful UPnP software program that can organise your music to your requirements and present it to whatever app you choose to use to playback your music. Songkong is a separate program which can be used to correct errors and inconsistencies with the metadata in your albums and tracks (missing artwork and ‘The Beatles’ or ‘Beatles, The’ for example)
Both included versions are starter editions and give you plenty of functionality, but you can buy a licence for each program to unlock a lot features and functions.
For example, with Minimserver 2 you have options to search your music via your app by looking at artist, album, track, genre, year etc, but with the full version of Minimserver 2 you can add custom search parameters such as Record Label, so you can use this parameter to search your collection – selecting “Blue Note Records” will show you all of your Blue Note albums. SongKong is often needed to help with the creation of the tags, but that is what it is there for!
It’s possible to manipulate both programs to really enhance the browsing of your music.
Minimserver 2 also gives you the option to switch into Classical Mode as well which is very useful as it adds search parameters such as Composer, Works, Movement, Orchestra, Conductor, Ensemble, Performer, Choir – useful indeed!
Back Up Your Library
Connect a suitably sized USB Passport HDD into the back up socket of your Melco and you can create an easy back up of your library. Hard drive storage is not expensive in this day and age, so there is no excuse to not back you library up! If set up correctly with the first back up the Melco will back up to the back up drive incrementally so only changes are backed up, so it’s nice and quick.
Auto-Downloader from Hi-Res Audio and Qobuz
Purchases from HiResAudio and Qobuz will directly download onto your Melco N1 providing you are signed into your account on your Melco.
It’s a brilliant feature and is so convenient, no messing around downloading to computer then copying and pasting the album onto the Melco, it does it all for you.
The Qobuz downloader requires an EX machine running FW 4.20 or higher.
D100 CD Ripper and S100 Dataswitch
The D100 and S100 mk2 are housed in the same size chassis as the N100 and 2 box N10
The D100 is essentially the best CD ripper I have come across, weighing in at 3.5kg this is an extremely well built, heavily customised design – using a proprietary Melco circuit board it holds capacitors for the power supply and uses a high quality clock generator, it is not an off the shelf IT drive in a nice case!
Ripping a CD using the D100 is no different to any other drive, it takes its time to rip ensuring there are no errors and it can extract the maximum amount of data from the CD. Since its launch the D100 has been incredibly popular, lots of scepticism from people who argued that a rip is a rip and they are all the same – everyone who has had a home demonstration of a D100 has bought one, in a good system its benefits are obvious, I blind tested a number of customers by taking control of the iPad and playing in sequence the same tracks ripped using a D100 vs a pre-existing rip and the feedback on the D100 was consistent.
The D100 can also be used to rip CD’s directly to a computer as well – so if you don’t own a Melco but have something like a Linn, Naim or Lumin network player and a conventional NAS you can use the D100 to rip your collection ensuring you get the very best rip possible!
The D100 is £1149.00
The S100 Mk2 launched on the 1st of December 2022 and replaces the very popular mk1 model. It offers the same number of connections as the mk1 S100 but on the mk2 version there are 6 Gigabit ethernet sockets and 2 100Mb sockets, along with the same 2 SFP sockets (the original S100 sockets were 4 Gigabit and 4 100Mb
If you move music around over your network the S100 offers a sizeable upgrade in performance. Streaming Tidal, Qobuz, Roon or using a Network Player (of any flavour) the S100 is a brilliant addition. Many people have raised eyebrows at the concept of an ‘audiophile’ switch, especially at the price point the S100 sits at, but to be fair even some of the most die-hard sceptic customers were convinced of the merits of an S100 in their system. Relatively speaking it has been a very popular addition to people’s systems and you obviously don’t need to have a Melco N1 to take advantage of an S100.
The S100 mk2 is £2099.00
Both the D100 and S100 mk2 are on permanent demonstration and are available for home loan
Make no mistake, all the Melco models are superb and they all have their place/relevance in the right system.
The entry level N100 is a serious component and when combined with a good DAC either machine genuinely makes for a really compelling front end for any system. I’ve never done a demonstration where someone has not been impressed by the sonic performance on offer.
I’ve used the machines with DAC’s and streamers from Chord, Exogal, Vitus, Naim, Linn, Devialet, Moon and the performance is consummate with whatever you plug it into; the better the DAC the better the end result in most cases, but please don’t think that if you have an older inexpensive DAC you won’t get great results.
The N50 EX is the next step up the Melco ladder and is a brand new model released in November 2021. It features a single 3.84T SSD drive, a first for Melco at this price point, previously all of the machines with SSD drives in them have been the flagship models. Visually it is identical to the outgoing N1A, but that is where any similarities end, internally the N50 is all new with a new mainboard, new power supply and of course the SSD itself.
It offers much greater performance than an N100 and an N1A, the presentation is more refined and more open and transparent – this new model will serve as a great upgrade for N100 and N1A owners wanting to upgrade to something with better performance.
The N50 S38 puts the N1ZH in an odd place as they are close in price (£4999 vs £5499), it has a single 5TB hard drive (which is not SSD) and is in much higher quality case which does look a lot better, but sonically I’d admit I’d take an N50 S38 over an N1ZH, the difference isn’t huge, but both models are a clear step ahead of the N100 and N1A. The N1ZH is now discontinued (as of Summer 2022)
If you have a great DAC or Network Player the benefits of both the N50 and N1ZH over the N100 and N1A are pretty obvious once you start listening. The music simply flows and pulls you in, it’s a seductive and addictive experience! Over the past few years I have had quite a few customers upgrade from N1A to N1ZH and every single one of them has been delighted with the performance boost and I can see many N100/N1A owners switching to the N50.
Move above the N50 S38 and you have the N10 mk2, this is available is 2 different versions –
Single 5TB HDD for £7299
Single 3.84TB SSD £9399
Both models offer great performance, the SSD version is sonically a step up over the HDD version, with extra clarity and openness.
In March 2023 Melco announced the launch of their new flagship model, the N1.
Priced at £11,995 the N1 is Melco’s most costly machine they have released and they have gone back to the drawing board in terms with an all new casework, new firmware, new power supply, new mainboard, literally the only aspect which will be familiar existing Melco owners in the menu system.
In performances terms the N1 is a big upgrade over everything that has gone before, Melco’s research and development on the N1 has really paid odd, comparing it to N1ZS, N1ZH and N10/2 in every case the N1 simply gives you more of everything that the other models already do so well.
If you have a relatively inexpensive DAC/system the N100 is a great choice, it sounds fantastic and works really well and it always impresses Step up to the N50 and there are obvious performance benefits which are instantly audible.
Likewise with the N1 if you have a serious system the benefits of the flagship model is audible from the off. Once you have heard one there is no going back unfortunately.
I have plenty of customers who have started off with a Melco N100, N1A or N1ZH who have subsequently moved up the range and everyone has always been delighted with what has happened.
Don’t underestimate what all of the Melco models are capable of delivering at their respective price points and please don’t fall into the trap of thinking the Melco is simply a NAS drive or Computer in a hi-fi shaped box. Melco uses no off the shelf computer components in any of their products.
All Melco models are available to demonstrate in your own system, get in touch to organise a home visit or home loan