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 5 models in the Melco line-up starting at £1999 for the N100 and extending to £9999 for the flagship N1ZS. The feature set is pretty much identical across the range, what differs is storage capacity, connectivity and of course performance.
Melco N100 EX – £1999 with 2TB HDD or £2499 with 5TB SSD
Melco N1A EX – £2749 with 6TB HDD
Melco N1ZH EX – £5240 with 5TB HDD
Melco N10 EX – £6999 for 3TB HDD
Melco N1ZS EX £9999 SSD
The N10 is available as a limited edition Anniversary model to celebrate Melco’s 45th birthday, this limited edition model is in Champagne Gold and comes with a 5TB HDD, along with some subtle internal refinements to enhance performance.
Melco also have a further 3 models which greatly enhance the whole Melco ecosystem.
Melco D100 CD Ripping Drive £1099
Melco S100 Audiophile Dataswitch £2099
Melco E100 Expansion HDD (3TB) £1099
The D100 and S100 have both been incredibly popular and not just with Melco owners, 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 Dataswitch is also proving very popular as well, anyone who streams music can take advantage of the merits of an S100, it’s not subtle and always takes people by surprise.
USB DAC or Network Player?
You can connect your Melco N1 into either a USB DAC or a Network Player, depending on your system and preference.
Each Melco N1 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 Linn Kazoo, Linn, Lumin, MConnect, Bubble UPnP and Music Cast.
Within each of these apps you can stream from Qobuz and Tidal (Linn app do not support Tidal any more) and if using the Melco app you can use vTuner as well.
All of the Melco N1 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 the Melco N1 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
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 are housed in the same size chassis and 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 £1099.00
The S100 is Melco’s Dataswitch, it offers 8 Ethernet Ports (4 are 1000mb and 4 are 100mb) along with 2 fibre optic SPF ports.
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 is £2099.00
Both the D100 and S100 are on permanent demonstration and are available for home loan
Melco N1 Performance
Make no mistake, all the Melco N1 models are superb and they all have their place/relevance in the right system.
The N100 and N1A/EX is are serious source components 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.
As the N1A has moved through from mk1 to the current EX model they have managed to squeeze out more performance compared to the previous versions and it’s a good step up.
Moving up to the N1ZH, the improvements they have made with this model over and above the N1A and N100 shows within about 20 seconds of pressing play. It does all of the things the models below do, it just does more of them and does it better. There is an increased sense of scale with lots more weight to the presentation and the soundstage is wider and deeper. The reproduction of timbres is more accurate, instruments start to sound more real and more alive. Tracks where you think there were 2 musicians playing, suddenly uncover a third you’ve never heard before.
You simply get to hear more of the finer nuances in recordings and you can really get lost in the music. If you have a great DAC the benefits of the N1ZH over the N1A are pretty obvious once you start listening. The music simply flows and pulls you in, it’s a seductive and addictive experience! 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.
The N1ZH has consistently been the most popular Melco model here at Audio Therapy.
Moving up to the N1ZS the price jumps up from £5250 to £9999 and you get less storage, so we’re not off to a good start!
Then you play some music!
The improvements Melco have engineered with the N1ZS are pretty obvious right from the off. Improved clarity, more focus and cohesion. There is more weight and I mean that in a good way, it’s tight and controlled but it digs dramatically lower than the other 2 models.
If you have a relatively inexpensive DAC/system the N100 or N1A is the obvious choice, comparing the N1A to an N1ZH with a DAC costing upwards of £2000 you can pretty much instantly hear the improvements the H has to offer. Likewise with the S, if you have a serious system the benefits that the flagship model offers is audible from the off. Once you have heard an N1ZS there is no going back unfortunately.
I have plenty of customers who have started off with a Melco N1A or N1ZH who have subsequently moved up the range to the flagship N1ZS and everyone has always been delighted with what has happened.
The introduction of the N100 and the N10 has mixed up the range somewhat. The N100 has been really popular due to a number of reasons, largely its compact size and the fact it is now the entry level model in the range. Make no mistake though, it is still a serious product and in an A/B demonstration comfortably outperforms an original N1A.
The N10 is interesting, it sits right between the N1ZH and the N1ZS in terms of costing, it is a 2 box design, with the large power supply being kept away from the main head unit where the 3TB hard drive is stored. From a sonic perspective the N10 sounds like a Melco through and through, but in presentation terms it is a little more upfront and lively with the way it plays music, in some systems and for some tastes the N10 could make for a more compelling choice over an N1ZH or even an N1ZS.
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