Pioneer's networked audio players do high-res, AirPlay

Pioneer has announced two new networked audio players, capable of playing high-resolution audio WAV and FLAC files, while also supporting both AirPlay and DLNA.

Pioneer N-50
Pioneer N-50 Pioneer

Some might say "audiophile" and "digital music" shouldn't be used in the same sentence, but Pioneer is hoping they're wrong.

Pioneer released two new networked audio players yesterday aimed at the audiophile crowd, the N-30 and N-50. The two players feature Pioneer's Elite branding and have a sturdy-looking component-style design, including a 2.5-inch color display that shows cover art and artist/track information.

File-format support should please digital audiophiles: 192khz/24-bit FLAC and WAV support, plus MP3, WMA, AAC and Ogg Vorbis. Both AirPlay and DLNA are supported, which means you'll be able to connect with both iOS device and Android devices, provided you run a DLNA app (like Skifta) on your Android device. (Apple Lossless is also supported through AirPlay, although it doesn't appear to be natively supported by the player.) The N-30 and N-50 can also be controlled by Pioneer's ControlApp, which is available for iOS devices and "select Android devices."

Pioneer N-50 back panel
The N-50 has a basic set of connections, including digital inputs, which the N-30 lacks. Pioneer

The major differences between the two players are relatively minor, which the N-50 adding digital inputs, as well as a USB DAC and a twin transformer. The N-50 also has an "armored chassis to resist noise," but if you need a networked audio player with an "armored chassis," noise is probably the least of your problems.

While the dual support of AirPlay and DLNA is nice, it's surprising that there's not much native support for digital music services like Pandora, Spotify, MOG, Rdio, and Rhapsody. Competing devices offer wide support for digital music services, and while Pioneer's players can access them via AirPlay if you have an iOS device, everyone else is out of luck. The N-30 and N-50 do support Internet radio natively via vTuner.

The biggest turnoff for most buyers will be the price, with the N-30 ($500) and N-50 ($700) selling for more than similar Squeezebox and Sonos systems. Note that those high prices won't get you built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, with both wireless formats requiring additional adapters.

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