With the N-50’s digital output feeding my Marantz AV7005 preamp-processor, music had a more “focused” sound, with vocals locked very tightly and firmly in the center between my left and right channels. But it also sounded a bit more congested and “confined” between the speakers. When I listened to the same tracks with the N-50’s analog output jacks feeding the Marantz, vocals were spread a bit wider, and there was a far more pleasing warmth and richness to the sound. The N-50’s analog output also had a slightly brighter sound, which was noticeable on jazzy numbers like John Coltrane’s “Blue Train,” from the album of the same name.
The Pioneer N-50 has a processing feature called “Hi-Bit 32” that upsamples digital signals to create “a natural and analog-like waveform.” I toggled this mode on and off and was unable to hear any difference, so I left it off.
Finally, the N-50 has an interesting feature called AirJam. This is a Bluetooth audio mode (requiring the AS-BT200 adapter) that enables multiple listeners — up to four — to create a “group playlist” using their respective Bluetooth-equipped devices. If you’ve ever gone back and forth with friends in a “You’ve got to hear this!” music-sharing spree, then you’ll recognize how cool AirJam could be. Also, songs from the AirJam session can be easily viewed on YouTube or purchased on iTunes directly from your iPad.
The Pioneer Elite N-50 is a player that performs as good as it looks. While I had some minor ergonomic quibbles with its controls — all of which were easily resolved by using Pioneer’s dedicated control app — from a sonic standpoint, I can say that the N-50 passed with flying colors.
When finishing a review and deciding on a product’s overall merits, one question I always ask is, “Is this a piece I would like to keep for myself?” With the N-50, the answer is an absolute yes!
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