Network player Pioneer N-P01
The Japanese brand Pionner offers several network music players and the N-P01 is its entry-level model. Connectable in Wi-Fi or Ethernet, equipped with a Bluetooth connection, compatible DLNA, AirPlay and Spotify Connect, the device is fairly well equipped. It has a beautiful color screen to facilitate its use and delivers sound performance more than honorable. This is a good entry into the world of connected Hi-Fi.
Featuring a compact size mini-chassis and a beautiful brushed aluminum front in the center of which features a 3.5-inch color display, the Pioneer is intelligently positioned in price. It is capable of playing Hi-Res audio files on hard drives connected to the local network or from a USB-connected storage device, up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM or DSD128.
The Pioneer N-P01 network player does not have a great smartphone and tablet driver, unlike many networked multiroom brands like Sonos Connect, Harman/Kardon Omni Adapt, Denon Heos Link or the Bluesound Node. Nevertheless, it is possible to send music through the AirPlay protocols of Apple and Spotify Connect. This is already a good start in terms of openness.
In addition, the NP-01 has a Bluetooth connection compatible with the AAC and AptX codecs, allowing it to broadcast wirelessly at low resolution, but with the correct quality, sound from most smartphones, tablets and computers Modern buildings.
Finally, certainly the most interesting, the N-P01 gives the possibility to listen to music in DLNA mode and Hi-Res audio, without any external device to control it. Indeed, its color screen displays several lines of text, information about the file format being played and even the cover of the album when it is available. In addition, the few buttons on the front panel give you the possibility to navigate in the directory tree and files of the hard disks of the local network and choose the piece of music that you wish to listen to. The method is a bit dated, but here implemented well with ergonomics mastered.
In addition, the Pioneer N-P01 comes with a large remote control, covered with small buttons (common to other branded products) for a more advanced navigation in menus, especially through network configuration settings. These are quite pushed, sometimes a little complicated, but a glance at the summary instructions of the N-P01 and we get out relatively quickly.
To receive the webradios, no need either to go through an external application. The Pioneer N-P01 features a vTuner engine that provides direct access to tens of thousands of web radio stations classified by geographic location or musical genres. It does not have a search function, but the user has the ability to save his favorite stations and pinned them to the home page of the screen.
Inside the N-P01, it's a little empty, switched-mode power supply stages, network and Bluetooth receiver circuits, converters and output stages with good small Op amps from JRC. As such, the Pioneer N-P01 could be a good playground for lovers of audio tweaking.
The design is therefore basic, but the construction is very clean, carefully made within a metal chassis of a correct rigidity. And the results at listening are rather attractive for a device at this price. The Pioneer N-P01 does not reach the superb material and musical articulation of a QAT RS3 reader/server. It also lacks a little density in the bottom of the spectrum. However, its restitution is alive, of a good definition, with precise treble, an open medium. This reader transcribes well the notion of space, with a stereophonic image of a beautiful aeration and which holds well. The sound scene is wide, set at the level of the speakers. The low is fast, without being dry. The set is relatively dynamic while avoiding aggressiveness. The Pioneer offers a rigorous tonal balance, very slightly physiological with a small point of brilliance at the top of the spectrum, but no characteristic excess. The sound is homogeneous, natural. We listen to the Pioneer N-P01 with pleasure.