Music Renderers...

...are interesting me currently. To wit, the MicroRendu, and the SOtM SMS-200.

image (Image: AudioStream)

image (Image: Audiostream)

Wossat den? They are similar devices in many ways. The inspiration seems to have come about via Raspberry pi, or at least they are of the same ilk (The MicroRendu is actually available on the cheap, in modded Pi form - just to show the similarities). They all run linux operating systems and accept ethernet (RJ45) input in order to connect to your home network, as well as extra USB ports for external USB drives. They output via audio optimized USB ports to a DAC of your choice.

They are controlled via computer/smartphone/tablet and a music player (a very similar player with shared open source genesis for each machine). They are Roon capable, Squeezebox ready, UPnP, DNLA, blah blah blah... everything basically.

In other words, they do what a very well optimised Raspberry pi does, with the added benefits of:

  • bespoke software
  • custom hardware
  • audio optimised and isolated USB output
  • super accurate audiophile-y clocking
  • custom made audio only circuit boards, rather than a whole RaspyPi
Does that make some sense? Music only renderers with custom designed hardware and software. You either feed them from a computer of some sort, the cloud, or directly from your NAS.

The mighty Sonore MicroRendu.

These look interesting, no? Perhaps the beginning of a new approach to computer audio and it's interface with our HiFi, as well as higher than ever sound quality and jump in simplicity. I will, when not feeling so lazy, investigate further. The MicroRendu has better specs and is approximately £650. The SMS-200 has very decent specs but inferior, yet usually wins out in comparative reviews. This is approximately £450.

Expensive Pi... What do you think?


  • I'd like to hear them alongside the RPi, but they're still many times the price of the Pi. A renderer, BTW, is the end part of a DLNA setup.
  • They do seem pricey compared to other alternatives. It would have to come down to sound quality and convenience. If they are obviously superior on both counts then the cost is justified, if not...
  • On the point of perceived value:

    My phone has a marvelous 32bit DAC in it, which sounds genuinely great plugged into the hifi. So has my Chromecast audio, which compared to a RPi is smaller, more complete and costs just £15. iTunes is a great media platform too.

    All these are great starting points, and are the best value for money - full stop.

    Yet my hifi DAC is better than my phone (but by over a thousand pounds?), a dedicated music computer is better than a CCA (by how many £££?) and Audirvana+ or Amarra is better than iTunes (there's a pattern here). How far will a music lover go?

    A RPi represents a cost effective way into new generation computing hardware which sounds great. (It just does; my completely solid state 2009 Mac Mini with passive cooling, SATA filters and stripped out hardware was trounced by a stock 2014 mac mini). Can a RPi be improved by being rebuilt as a simple music player only, without all the noisy other parts of a computer and the associated radiation and power regulation?

    Could it be further improved with audiophile fancy clocks and carefully isolated oscillators/USB output?

    Could the sound, while great over SPDIF, be better when fed into a USB specialist DAC such as my own?

    Probably (x3).

    Would all that not cost something? Well, this is hifi...

    A RPi with all the bits I need will set me back around £100. A SOtM SMS200 will be &350 on top of that.

    With an off the shelf solution I won't have to learn linux from scratch, my family will be able to use it from their smart devices, I won't have to learn linux from scratch, and there's a decent chance it will sound great - better even than a RPi. Because it was designed from the ground up to be so, whilst being based upon all the good parts. Plus, I won't have to learn linux from scratch (did I mention that?).

    I hate computers, I hate interfacing with them, and I only tolerate them in my hifi because they are better than CD players. If a nice, high quality, plug'n'play, reasonably priced RPi (or better) appears on the market, is raved about by computer-ey audiophiles all over the web, then color me interested. Especially if I don't have to learn linux.

  • The only way to tell is to listen, if you're primarily concerned about SQ.

    I like messing about with software the way some of you like messing about with soldering irons, so I'd rather have the RPi and its flexibility than buy a sealed box. 

    But, if either of the streamers should sound better, then I need to decide if, on balance, the better sound is worth the bigger outlay and the loss of being able to tweak the renderer.

    And one more thing. Sam and I control the renderer with a app on our iPhones or iPads. We could do the same with perhaps a different app on Android. 

    The app we use is the one from Lumin, giving us the same user experience as if I'd spent - what is it? - £7K or more for one of their products. The price for the app? £0.
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