We’ve looked at a lot of network audio players (a.k.a. “music streamers”) of late, but the one that really stood out for us in 2012 was Pioneer’s $699 Elite N-50. What does the N-50 have that others don’t? AirPlay for one. But along with letting you wirelessly beam audio from your iPad/Pod/Phone, the N-50 can stream up to 192/24-format FLAC music files over a wired or wireless network. It has a front panel USB input for plugging in drives stocked with tunes. You can even stream audio via Bluetooth by adding Pioneer’s optional $99 adapter.
Many network streamers are purely functional boxes that are boring to look at, but the N-50’s sleek design means it can sit pretty alongside other components in your A/V rack. “Gorgeous” is how John Sciacca characterized it, paying particular attention to its beveled-edge aluminum front panel and 2.5-inch color LCD screen, which displays both album art and essential track metadata/file format info. John also liked Pioneer’s iOS/Android ControlApp, which mirrors the same info you’d see up-close on the LCD, and also provides basic control functions. Our verdict? The N-50 offers a winning combination of sound quality and features.
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