Pioneer N-50 Network player

Pioneer has two network players: the super-budget-priced N-30 and this better - spec'd N-50.

Where the 'infant' N-30 is just a network player, this N-50 also functions as a standalone DAC.

Although its wrapping-over bonnet is decidedly mass market, the N-50 is not deceptively light. It's a strong chassis with independent power supplies and analogue sections and reinforced base plate. It's the BridgeCo DM860 chip that is employed in Stream Unlimited's client, and D-to-A conversion is via double AK4480 32-bit/128x oversampling DACs in double differential mode. Onboard DSP adds Pioneer's 32-bit Hi-Bit upsampling and 'sound media compressed, while the DSP is bypassed by a Pure Audio function.

Management programs for iOS and Android are available, Apple's AirPlay is made in, but Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapters are £50 optional extras.

Does it still stand up as a fine-sounding network player? You bet! Completely oblivious they were listening to a network player costing considerably less compared to the others in the test group, our 'blind' listeners found its open mouthed and vibrant sound exceptionally rewarding.

When playing with the Daft Punk and Boz Scaggs tracks it could not hold a candle in terms of bass detail and clarity - although it sounded very well widened at low frequencies. Nor did it offer the refined treble sweetness of the Lindemann Musicbook 20 or Musical Fidelity CLiC.

In the Rachmaninov, while appreciating the openness and soundstage skill of the musician, our listeners complained coarsening 'electronic sheen' to brass and the orchestra's strings during ff passages.

But where the Cyrus Stream X Signature was 'soft and mellifluous' and the MF slightly 'muffled' with our 'Mozaic' track, the N-50 sounded very quick and explicit. There is no blunting of transients, the player proving exceptionally disclosing of fine elements.

Pioneer N-50 Network player photo