Digital Music Library

Melco Audio are a Japanese company who manufacture a range of ‘Digital Music Libraries’ or ‘Servers’ that offer incredible performance and with none of the compromise of traditional computer peripherals.

Since the launch of the original groundbreaking N1A model back in 2014 the Melco range has evolved today into several different models at varying levels along with a CD ripping drive and 2 network switches.

The range of Melco Servers act as a simple storage device to archive your digital music collection – CD rips and Hi-Res downloads, plus they can also all act as a high resolution streamers with Tidal and Qobuz streaming services, they are also all Roon Ready Endpoints.

The Melco server model line-up starts with the N100 which is £2149 and extends up to £11995 for the flagship N1. The feature set is pretty much identical across the range, but 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 N5£7499 with a 6TB HDD

Melco N1 £11,995 with a 3.84TB SSD

Melco @ Audio Therapy

Melco Server Product Range

Melco N5 @ Audio Therapy

In addition to their servers Melco also produce 3 further products to help expand their ecosystem.

Melco Network Switches and Optical Drive

Melco D100 @ Audio Therapy

Melco D100 Optical Drive

The D100 Optical Drive has been a very well received model, it is simply the best option for ripping your CD collection that I’ve ever come across. For those people with large CD collections and for those who still buys CD’s (there are more people who do this than you might realise!) it’s a great solution. I’ve customers who are using a D100 connected every model of Melco server but I’ve also supplied quite a few D100 to customers who are using them connected to a computer, using something like dBPoweramp or Exact Audio Copy to rip their discs.

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!

Melco S10 Dataswitch @ Audio Therapy

Melco S100/2 and S10 Network Switches

The S100/2 and S10 switches have been incredibly popular, helped along by the ‘coming of age’ of streamed music and the fact services such as Tidal and Qobuz can be now thought of as a serious source in their own right. Networks can be noisy places that can hold back performance and both of these switches offer a superb solution.

The S100/2 launched at the end of 2022 and it replaced the original S100. It has 8 ethernet connections and 2 SFP connections. With the S100/2 the configuration of the ethernet sockets has changed slightly from the original S100. It now has 6 Gigabit Ethernet sockets and 2 Fast (100Mb) Ethernet sockets.

The S100 comes included with a sensible laptop style power supply which gets it up and running but there are options to upgrade this to something superior which will further enhance the ability of the S100, there are 2 options from Plixir with their Elite and Statement models, both of which offer a meaningful upgrade to performance.

Melco S100 Mk2 Network Audio Switch @ Audio Therapy

The S10 is Melco’s flagship switch, it is a 2 box version with a head unit with the all of the connection options with the power supply contained in the 2nd box.

Please note, an S10 is not an S100 with an external power supply, it is a heavily upgraded version of the S100 with superior power management, improved casework and better screening.

The S10 has 2 SFP connections with 4 Gigabit Ethernet sockets and 4 Fast (100Mb) Ethernet sockets.

For anyone who streams music from an online source over a 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 after listening to one.

Streaming Qobuz on a Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe is a great experience, the IS-1000 is an integrated amplifier with a built in streaming network DAC. It is £5300 and it is certainly no slouch. But if you install an S100/2 between your network and the IS-1000 Deluxe the performance takes a serious jump forward.

The switch delivers the music with greater clarity and there is great air and space around everything as well. The sense of scale and weight also improves, the addition of the S100/2 effectively puts the network into a quieter environment so you can hear more of what is going with the music, it’s much more insightful and I touched on above you can improve the performance even further by upgrading the power supply.

The S100/2 is £2100

Melco N1 and S10 @ Audio Therapy

Step up to an S10 and the price jumps up to £4999 and it is a much more extreme version of the S100. In a sensible streaming system if you do a comparison with an S100/2 (even with a Plixir PSU powering it) the difference between them is quite stark, it doesn’t do anything fundamentally different to an S100/2 it is just that its impact is far greater

Since the S10 launched I have to admit every single customer who has demonstrated one (or compared one to an S100) has bought one, it is an incredibly strong product, one customer joked that it should come with a warning…….’once you experience an S10 there is no going back’

Melco Network Cables

Melco produce 2 different network cables, the C100 which is a standard Ethernet cable and the C1-D20 which is their SFP+ Direct Attach Copper Cable. The C100 is a well engineered, sensibly priced CAT6 cable which is available in 1m, 2m, 3m, 5m and 10m lengths.

All of the Melco servers and their 2 switches use conventional Ethernet, in terms of the C1-D20 this style of cable can be used on the flagship N1, N5 and the S100 and S10 Network Switches, this cable can also be used on the ADOT Media Converters.

Quite a few brands are starting to offer SFP connections on their streamers/servers/switches and this cable is compatible with the Taiko Extreme Switch and Extreme SGM Server, the Linn Klimax DSM, plus Aurender, Hi-Fi Rose, SFORZATO DSP-Columba, DSP-Corvus and DST-Lepus.

Anyone who currently uses a conventional SFP cable between the their ADOT, S100, S10, N1, N5 be aware that the C1-D20 serves as quite an upgrade! Please click on the link below to learn more about it.

Metronome Le DAC 2 @ Audio Therapy

Connecting a Melco Server to your System – USB DAC or Network Player?

Moving back to the range of Melco Servers you can connect your Melco into either a USB DAC or a Network Player, depending on your system and preference, some systems will give you the option for both methods.

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 Naim or Linn or even a Vitus RI-101 mk2 with the DAC Streamer board) you would connect your device directly to the Melco Player Port, so it isn’t connected directly to your network, but instead via the Melco. You device still remains connected to the outside world for updates, streaming etc and you control it using the app you have always used, nothing changes in terms of how it works, but connecting it via the Player port will improve its performance.

Naim NDX2 and Melco @ Audio Therapy

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 when using a USB DAC 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.

I would estimate around 70% of my Melco customers use a USB-DAC of whatever form, the other 30% are using the Player Port method with a Network Player.

Melco N1 @ Audio Therapy

Streaming Qobuz and Tidal 

If you Melco Server is connected to a USB DAC you have the option to stream music from both Tidal and Qobuz via whatever app you use to control your Melco, this is becoming more and more relevant for people as the performance of these streamed services has really improved and in many systems the lines have become blurred between file playback and streamed playback. I have a large number of customers who have a Melco server with several thousand albums stored on the internal HDD or SSD and they also use Qobuz/Tidal for new music discovery. Many customers find new music which they then either buy on CD or download, whereas many simply just stream. I have over 3500 albums on my Melco N1 and they get plenty of playtime, but I use Qobuz just as much.

Install an an S100/2 or S10 Switch in the system when streaming and it will really improve the performance even further, I certainly consider streaming to be a serious solution and an alternative primary source to playing from file storage.

The majority of control apps have traditionally kept your own music library and your streaming favourites segregated from one another. So if a band have 10 albums and you have 5 on the Melco HDD and the other 5 as Qobuz favourites there is no way to see them all together in one place. However, JPLAY is one app which does integrate both libraries together as one and you can easily see which albums are file based and which are streamed. The image of JPLAY below shows a selection of albums from PJ Harvey, the green icon on the thumbnails denotes Minimserver and are albums stored on the Melco SSD, the Q denotes a Qobuz favourite.

Roon Ready

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 suggestions on what to listen to based on your listening and reminding you about music you may well have forgotten you owned.

Melco is now Roon Ready @ Audio Therapy

In order to run Roon you need an active subscription and you also need a computer that is capable of running the 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 that does nothing else other than run Roon.

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! That said speaking personally as much as I love the Roon interface I find the performance is not as good compared to controlling a Melco via JPLAY and the better the system the more distinct the difference in many cases.

Minimserver 2 and SongKong

All of Melco models comes with Minimserver 2 and SongKong pre-loaded.

Minimserver 2 is a very powerful UPnP software program that can organise your music to your specific 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 (add missing artwork and sort out artist issues such as ‘The Beatles’ or ‘Beatles, The’ for example)

Minimserver @ Audio Therapy

Both included versions are starter editions and give you plenty of functionality, but you can buy a licence for each program to unlock more features and functions.

For example, with Minimserver 2 by default you have options to search your music via your app by looking at artist, album, track, genre, year etc (more than enough for most users) 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 needed to help with the creation of the tags, but that is what it is there for!

It’s possible to heavily manipulate both programs to really enhance the browsing of your music, but it is not essential.

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, which for fans of classical music is very helpful.

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. External hard drive storage is not expensive, so there is no excuse to not back you library up! If configured correctly the first back up is a full back of everything on your Melco HDD and subsequent back ups are incremental (only changes since the last back up are backed up) so it is nice and quick.

Auto-Downloader from Hi-Res Audio and Qobuz

Purchases from HiResAudio and Qobuz will directly download onto your Melco Server 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. I’ve plenty of customers (myself included) who still purchase plenty of music from both websites and it is a useful feature.

Melco N1 & Metronome Le DAC 2 @ Audio Therapy

Melco Server – Performance

Apologies for the long post, well done if you still here, I hope the above is useful information and helps to break down the products and the range, but I guess this next section is arguably the most important – how they all sound!

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 sensible DAC it 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 numerous customers using the N100 with products such as the Gold Note DS10 DAC, the Chord Qutest DAC and the Linn Majik DSM Network Player. It comes with a standard laptop style power supply but there are options to upgrade this to a Plixir Elite or Statement PSU both of which offer a really good upgrade to the N100. Most customers start with the N100 by itself and add a power supply later so they can appreciate the benefits it bring.

Move up from the N100 and the next model in the range is the N50.  The N50 is available in 2 different versions, the N50 H60 and the N50 S38

The H60 is £2999 and features a 6TB HDD, whereas the S38 uses a 3.84TB SSD, the same drive as is used in the flagship N1

Visually the N50 is identical to the older 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 2 different drive options.

The N50 H60 produces a bigger, more authoritative sound compared to the N100, although an N100 with a Plixir PSU powering it blurs the lines lines somewhat, especially with the Statement PSU

Step up to the N50 S38 and the performance takes a giant leap forward, it is much more open and transparent and it is much bigger jump from an N100, the difference in cost from N50 H60 to N50 S38 is more than worth the price of admission, when connected to a good DAC or network player the difference is instantly audible. I recently had a customer upgrade from an N100 to a N50 S38 and when he borrowed it he couldn’t believe what he was hearing, I honestly thought he wasn’t expecting to hear much of a difference, but in his system (his DAC is a Gold Note DS-10) the floodgates opened and he was really away and nothing else in his system was changed.

If you have a great DAC or Network Player the benefits of both versions the N50 are pretty obvious once you start listening, but the S38 really does pull ahead.  The music simply flows and pulls you in, it’s a seductive and addictive experience! Here at Audio Therapy the N50 S38 has been more popular than the N50 H60, I’ve had quite a few N1A and N100 customers make the jump.

In March 2023 Melco announced the launch of their new flagship model, the N1 and its baby brother the N5

Priced at £11,995 the N1 is Melco’s most costly machine they have released and they have gone back to the drawing board with it 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 including N1ZS/2 and N10/2, Melco’s extensive research and development on the N1 has really paid off, 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. It’s not a subtle jump from any of those models and has been the most popular Melco model here at audio Therapy over the past 12 months.

The N5 is best thought of as a scaled back N1, it visually looks almost the same, but the construction is scaled back a little and it uses a conventional 5TB HDD as opposed to an SSD. In performance terms the N5 is a great upgrade over the N1ZH which was an incredibly popular model and for those who can’t justify an N1 it makes for a really logical upgrade.

Summing Up

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. If an N1 is out of reach the N5 is positioned perfectly.

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