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    Sonore Signature Series Rendu Review

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    I’ve been using the Signature Series Rendu for several months in combination with several audio system components. Whether I’ve connected the “SSR” straight to a DAC or to an integrated amp with built-in DAC, the results have been the same, steady and superb. The performance of the Signature Series Rendu has enabled my other components to really shine because they are receiving a very clean and I assume low jitter signal from the SSR. Not only this, but the SSR turns all my components into network capable DLNA devices. Superb sound and expanding the capability of one’s favorite components are what the Signature Series Rendu is all about. The SSR isn’t a jack of all trades, rather it’s a purpose-built Ethernet to S/PDIF or I2S converter. In other words a DLNA renderer built for a single purpose and built to accomplish its job as well as possible. Members of the CA Community looking for a way to use their favorite DAC or integrated as a network / DLNA device must consider the Sonore Signature Series Rendu as it has enabled the sound of my audio system to soar as high or higher than any component I’ve heard previously. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

     

     

    What Is It?

     

    The Sonore Signature Series Rendu is a simple, yet very well engineered, device that converts an Ethernet signal into either S/PDIF (BNC) or I2S (HDMI). There is no wireless, no USB, no digital to analog conversion, no AES/EBU, no AirPlay, and no streaming service support with the Signature Series Rendu. The SSR is also known as a DLNA renderer to those learned in the world of UPnP/DLNA.

     

    I see at least three very solid use cases for the Signature Series Rendu.

     

    1. Users who don’t want traditional computers in their listening rooms.

    2. Users who want to add network / DLNA capability to existing systems without replacing other components.

    3. Users who have components that already support Ethernet / DLNA but want better performance than the native component interface provides.

     

     

     

    Users who don’t want traditional computers in their listening rooms will likely prefer a component such as the Signature Series Rendu due to its similarities with traditional audio components. It’s fanless, linear power, metal chassis design looks very nice next to many other components and wont’ pollute the room or the electrical system with noise. A typical system in this scenario would have a NAS or NAS-like computer, running DLNA server software, sitting elsewhere in the user’s house. The NAS would simply serve audio to the Signature Series Rendu via standard Ethernet or even power line networking.

     

     

    Users who want to add network / DLNA capability to existing systems without replacing other components are the largest group of potential users in my estimation, followed closely by the group in the next paragraph. When using my reference system I fall into this category. I use the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC RS DAC. This DAC doesn’t include an Ethernet interface, or even USB interface for that matter. It’s the best DAC I’ve heard and there is no way I’m going to replace it just to get a unit that supports Ethernet / DLNA. It makes no sense to me to get a lesser quality DAC just because I want network capability. Thus, the Sonore Signature Series Rendu comes into play perfectly.

     

     

    Users who have components that already support Ethernet / DLNA but want better performance than the native component interface provides are the second largest group of potential users of the Signature Series Rendu. By better performance I mean both sonically and functionally. When discussing DLNA I always like to call it the most non-standard standard. What I mean is that there are literally billions of DLNA devices on the planet yet most have a difficult time communicating with each other when it comes to non-trivial tasks like gapless playback. Members of the Computer Audiophile Community know full well that DLNA devices can have many issues, as evidenced by the frustrated PS Audio Bridge users. At the same time, it’s not simple to build a DLNA renderer / high end audio component. That’s where Sonore steps in with the Signature Series Rendu. The SSR is pretty much application agnostic, meaning that its users can control playback with any number of DLNA control points. I prefer using JRiver Media Center with the JRemote iOS application. This combo works terrifically with the SSR. In addition to users seeking better functionality with their existing DLNA capable components, users can also add the Signature Series Rendu in an effort to increase sonic performance. A good example of this is Ted Brady’s review of the PS Audio DirectStream DAC. Ted squeezed the best sonics out of the DirectStream by connecting a Signature Series Rendu to the unit via I2S. Ted reported that this increased performance sonically over the standard built-in interfaces.

     

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    My SSR Experience In A Couple Systems

     

     

    System One: My Reference

     

    Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC RS > Pass Labs XA160.5 monoblocks > TAD CR1 Loudspeakers.

     

    I added the Sonore Signature Series Rendu to this system by connecting its S/PDIF BNC output to the Alpha DAC RS S/PDIF BNC input. I used a CAPS v4 Cortes running JRiver Media Center as the DLNA server feeding the SSR over Ethernet and JRemote as the control interface on my iPad. The sound of this system as a whole was pure joy. I don’t have playlists long enough to support my listening habits when this system is in use. For example, John Martyn’s Some People Are Crazy track from his Grace & Danger album is just so smooth and has just such a good clear baseline that I couldn’t stop listening. The Sonore Signature Series Rendu enabled me to hear something on Sonny Rollins album Way Out West that I hadn’t previously heard in all my listening sessions with this album. During the second track, Solitude, I was able to hear some squeaking reminiscent of John Bonham’s foot pedal squeaking in Since I’ve Been Loving You from Led Zeppelin III. granted what I heard on the Solitude track wasn’t near as loud as Bonham’s un-oiled pedal, but now that I know a squeak exists I can’t not hear it. I like to hear all the warts and irregularities of recordings and I attribute this latest revealing to the Sonore Signature Series Rendu. In my reference system the Sonore Signature Series Rendu is as good or better than any server I’ve used previously. There’s definitely something to be said for linear power supplies, getting the right engineers involved, and a solid 75 Ohm S/PDIF BNC connection.

     

     

     

     

    System Two: Devialet

     

    Devialet 400 monoblocks > TAD CR1 Loudspeakers

     

    I added the Sonore Signature Series Rendu to this system not necessarily to improve sound quality, but to add DLNA capability to an already very advanced audio component. The Devialet 400 monoblocks feature an Ethernet input, however this input only supports Devialet’s proprietary AIR streaming method. Using this method I was able to configure applications to output through the Devialet AIR virtual device, i.e. JRiver Media Center and TIDAL HiFi, but I was unable to take advantage of any other DLNA software. Thus, I connected the SSR to the Devialet’s digital 2 input and I was soon streaming flawlessly to a DLNA renderer / Devialet system. Functionality of the Sonore / Devialet system was terrific. Sonically I can’t say I heard an improvement over the built-in Ethernet Devialet AIR streaming method, but that’s not why I connected the SSR in the first place. Adding DLNA capability where none previously existed is what this exercise was all about. That said, sonically the Devialet monoblocks with the Signature Series Rendu were superb.

     

    Note: Readers looking to save money in this type of scenario may consider the SOtM sMS-100 Mini Server that features Ethernet input and USB output. This little server would have functioned fine with the Devialet’s USB input, but wouldn’t have worked at all with Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC RS because it lacks a USB input. I was unable to directly compare the sonic differences of using this low cost Mini Server versus the Signature Series Rendu. The two have opposite design approaches, but would make an interesting comparison in the appropriate system.

     

     

     

     

     

    Conclusion

     

    cash-logo-black-thumb.jpgThe Sonore Signature Series Rendu is a purpose-built DLNA renderer. That’s it. What it does, it does very well. Both sonics and functionality on the SSR were terrific. During my several months of use I didn’t experience a single issue related to the DLNA capability of the Signature Series Rendu. That’s much more than can be said for most DLNA devices I’ve used previously. This thing is designed to be a renderer, and a stellar one at that. The possibility of firmware updates exists with the SSR, but none were released during my months-long review period. The Signature Series Rendu is perfect for users seeking to 1) Exclude a traditional computer from their listening rooms, 2) Augment a non-networked system with DLNA capability, or 3) Improve functionality or sonic quality of an existing network enabled component. Sonically the Signature Series Rendu is as good or better than the best sources I’ve heard, including my reference music server the Aurender W20, SOtM servers, all the CAPS servers, and the Auralic Aries. Thus, the SSR is C.A.S.H. Listed without question.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Product Information:

    • Product - Sonore Signature Series rendu
    • Price - $2,899
    • Product Page - Link

     

     

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    Associated Music:

     

     

     

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    Associated Equipment:

     

     

     

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    Chris, I echo your review comments. The SSR is amazing. I am now using it, as you know, with I2S (Directstream) and have Minimsever/Bubble on my Synology NAS, so it is now an OpenHome renderer too (thanks to Bubble). Great job on the review, and great job Jesus and company.

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    Good job but I was wishing for a comparison between the original Sonore Rendu and the SSR. Since they are functionally identical, does the SQ increment, if any, make you want to switch?

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    Chris, another great review that I enjoyed a lot.

    I feel pity that I won't find it here for review in Portugal. Apparently this one is 220 v but not CE rated...will this wonderful unit be enjoyed only at one side of the Atlantic?

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    Thanks Chris. Looks like a great unit!

     

     

    Did you try your Synology NAS as the source with MinimServer and compare it to the CAPS with JRiver in DLNA mode? Curious how immune it is to the DLNA source it is fed.

     

    If a DAC does not have BNC but instead uses an RCA/BNC converter plug, will that impact audio quality?

     

    Thank you

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    Thanks for the review.

     

    It is nice to know that, for close to $3000, this device converts a digital Ethernet signal into a correct digital SPDIF or I2S signal with properly filtered electric current. If cost is no object, this is probably fine.

     

    I still think that such correct conversion can be done correctly much more cheaply with well-thought engineering.

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    Boris75, you have also the sonore reundu, for a much lower price point.

    I struggle to find a pure streamer like this on europe, as the market prefers to offer integrated streamer/dacs...with cost allocated to a feature not needed (the dac) and not enough attention to low jitter and low noise.

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    I'm a bit confused about how I would stream my DSD files to this. Since my DAC uses USB for DSD playback, I guess some sort of HDMI to USB converter would be required to hook my DAC up to the SSR?

    Edited by EdmontonCanuck
    Typo

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    EdmontonCanuck, there is no HDMI to USB for this setup since, for one of many reasons, the HDMI used here in this I2S is not the standard HDMI code but instead LVDS I2S (i.e I2S intended for longer than a millimeter). Your option is instead to use a USB-based music server (Aurender, Sonore, SOtM, pc-based CAPS, etc) or a renderer that does USB (Auralic Aries, for example).

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    Boris75, I'd love to say that I've heard a less-than $2800 renderer sound equally as good but I haven't. There is no free lunch. It ain't just "conversion" per se, but the quality of parts, power supplies, etc.

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    I own the original Rendu and think it is outstanding.

    I would love to hear about the sound quality differences between it and the Signature version.

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    I own the original Rendu and think it is outstanding.

    I would love to hear about the sound quality differences between it and the Signature version.

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    It would also be interesting sometime to hear someone compare the Rendu to the Sonore Orbiter, which does much the same thing but is set up to output USB.

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    I wonder if there is a signature version of a sonore orbiter in the works. I certainly hope so

     

    I share your concern. At >$1k for a digital-to-digital Ethernet to USB or SPDIF interface, the Orbiter is far too cheap. A more expensive option would make me feel more comfortable that its sound quality is good.

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    I share your concern. At >$1k for a digital-to-digital Ethernet to USB or SPDIF interface, the Orbiter is far too cheap. A more expensive option would make me feel more comfortable that its sound quality is good.

     

    I'm not sure the sarcasm is warranted. Sonore came out with a signature version of the Rendu, which they claim noticeably improves the SQ. I assume you read the review here in which Ted highly praises the Signature Rendu. The Orbiter and the Standard Rendu seem to be parallel devices, one for USB, one not.

     

    So it seems to be logical to wonder if a "signature" orbiter is also in the works. If you were a USB user and considering the orbiter, you might want to wait if you knew a signature version was being developed.

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    Pardon the dumb question. Is it possible, or will it be, to access streaming services through the Rendu, including TIDAL, Naxos, Internet radio, etc.?

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    I have been thinking about getting a Rendu for a while now. It would certainly be helpful to hear from someone who has listened to both the original and the Signature. I don't doubt that the original is good, or that the Signature is better, but it would be pushing the budget to get the Signature -- just what are the differences?

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    I have been thinking about getting a Rendu for a while now. It would certainly be helpful to hear from someone who has listened to both the original and the Signature. I don't doubt that the original is good, or that the Signature is better, but it would be pushing the budget to get the Signature -- just what are the differences?

     

    I have no idea what the functional/components/sound differences are but, at more than twice the price, it would warrant a substantial amount of information to convince buyers that the upgrade makes sense. I say that with no ill intent stated or implied toward Sonore or Jesus, also adding that I have done business with Jesus in the past and I have been left with the utmost respect for him, his company and their products.

     

    I would also love to hear Ted_b's valuation of the sonic differences between the SSR and Audiophile Optimizer since he's lived with both for so long. I would also some day like to hear how the SSR/Wyred4Sound DSD DAC stacks up against the SSR/Directstream.

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    I own something that has a similar function, a Audio-GD DI2014. It converts USB, optcal, S/PDIF to I2S, S/PDIF. It costs one tenth of this one. Horses for courses. Not exactly the same.

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    I own something that has a similar function, a Audio-GD DI2014. It converts USB, optcal, S/PDIF to I2S, S/PDIF. It costs one tenth of this one. Horses for courses. Not exactly the same.

     

    Have you used the Audio-GD with the Directstream I2S?

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    Hi folks, let me give some technical information about the differences between the Rendu and the Signature Rendu. The Signature Rendu uses a transformer which is ~4 times the price of the transformer in the Rendu. The Signature Rendu uses (2) oscillators (clock circuits) which ~10 times the price of the ones in the Rendu. The Signature Rendu comes in a beautiful custom chassis (made in USA) costing ~6 times more than the Rendu chassis.

     

    OK, so above you can get an idea on some of the parts costs increases. Here are the technical details which make the Signature Rendu sound better: 1. transformer is high quality Plitron Toroid, and it is cased in a sub-enclosure to guard against EM leakage.

    2. the power supply is more robust, uses special ultra fast/ultra soft diodes, has more smoothing capacitance, and uses premium quality parts in all positions. 3. The Signature Rendu adds an additional output-reclocking board. This board holds the oscillators, the isolators, and the re-clocking and SPDIF/I2S output circuitry. This board is the key to the performance increase over the regular Rendu. The output board is isolated from all noise generated on the Ethernet receive board (high speed processor noise). On the output board clean clock signals are generated without interference from the Ethernet board. All signals are re-clocked just before output from the clean clocks.

     

    OK, so how much difference sonically??? That is for the user to decide, as in all things with high end audio, there are diminishing returns: higher performance comes at a exponentially higher price. The original Rendu is very good, the Signature is better. The Signature is for the person looking for the best SPDIF/I2S source for their DAC, without compromise. Many people might be happy with the original Rendu. But do not listen to the Signature if you want to get the original.

     

    I consult for Simple Design/Sonore.

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    Do I want to hitch my wagon to SPDIF/I2S or to USB? Hot products in the server/renderer category (this Sonore, the Antipodes, the new Aurenders) seem to be choosing sides. Are there good arguments for one over the other, or is it mostly a matter of which DAC you prefer? ?Or what?

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    Barrows, thanks for that. I know more than a couple folks who have heard both, and the sq differnces are enough that if you are anywhere close to the budget stretching justification, go for it!

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