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    Sonore opticalRendu & Signature Rendu SE Optical Review | Part 1

    I've used products from Sonore for many years. These guys are always on the cutting edge and have the ability to turn on a dime, releasing a product most of the industry will copy in due time. With respect to product support I'd put Sonore right up there with the best, if not the best at resolving customer issues quickly and completely. Not only do these guys get it, in many respects they are it. 

     

    Over the last couple years more hardware manufacturers have implemented Ethernet interfaces in their products. To the layman this may seem like the best solution and a way to exclude or stop using a product like the opticalRendu. If the DAC accepts Ethernet directly, why use a "middle man" that converts Ethernet to USB for input into the DAC? At first blush, and using the old ideal of straight wire with gain, it seems logical to bypass as many links in the audio chain as possible. However, there is a reason products like integrated amplifiers and all-in-ones are still relegated to second class citizens. It's because separate components can often provide the best performance, flexibility, and cutting edge features. 

     

     

     

     


    The Sonore opticalRendu and its sister the Signature Rendu SE optical are the current apex products in the digital to digital converter category. Both products accept network traffic through an optical interface and output digital audio via USB to the DAC of one's choice. Much more information about the optical input, how it works, and how to implement it can be seen in the Sonore opticalRendu in 5 minutes video above. One item not covered in the video is the new Sonore bi-directional opticalModule that converts copper (Ethernet) to optical and vice versa. This enables one to take full advantage of the opticalRendu without the need for a fiber capable network switch.

     

    This review is divided into two parts. In this first part I'll cover some great aspects of the opticalRendu and give a brief opinion on its use in my system. I've had the unit since January and spent hundreds of hours with it in every configuration possible. In the second part of this review I will go much more in-depth about sound quality and focus heavily on the hidden gem in the Sonore lineup, the Signature Rendu SE optical. Why the split into two parts? As I write this, my new speakers are being manufactured and should be delivered to me around July 5, 2019. I have a temporary system that's quite capable of high end performance, but it's a major step down from that which I'm used to listening. Thus, everything sounds less than stellar right now. I want to get the new speakers in my listening room before I finish part two of this review. I think this method will serve everybody best. 

     

    By now most HiFi consumers know the Rendu series and its multi-facets. Roon Ready, UPnP/DLNA, AirPlay, SonoreUPnP Bridge, Spotify Connect, and a few others. Many consumers who've tried multiple UPnP/DLNA products also realize not all are created equal. I rank the Rendu UPnP/DLNA renderer as possibly the best in the business because of the Sonore team's ability to make it work incredibly well given that UPnP is the most non-standard standard. Has anyone ever had UPnP issues with a HiFi product? Rhetorical question that should have elicited painful chuckles in many readers. 

     

    Recently the Sonore team sent me an early release of its Sonicorbiter operating system (now available to everyone) that contained a new feature. In a way this feature is a throwback but also a response to several demands. Some consumers are tired of monthly or yearly subscription costs, some consumers are tired of network audio problems, and many consumers really don't have multi-terabyte libraries of local storage for which NAS solutions used. I was also happy to see this new feature because it's so damn simple. I get tired of fooling with technology now and then and understand how frustrating it can be to "guess what's wrong today" when one just wants to listen to music. 

     

    Enter the Sonic orbiter Local Storage option. Yes, local storage within the Rendu on its microSD card. This seems so 2010 but it's actually so 2019. The industry push for the longest time was more and more massive storage even though this was for the 1% of consumers with massive libraries. Massive storage requirements can introduce a host of compromises depending on what the consumer demands such as solid state storage, RAID, direct attached vs network attached storage, etc... I know, I've designed tons of systems of the years and run into all the issues possible. Want USB 3.0 (not 3.1) attached storage for 12TB, all SSD, RAID5 and an easy backup solution? Have fun on that adventure of compromises. 

     

    Anyway, I have an opticalRendu and Signature Rendu SE optical with the new local storage feature enabled. The microSD card inside is 400GB! A 512Gb card upgrade is only $299 now and a 1TB card upgrade will be available this fall for $550 from Sonore. These cards are from SanDisk as well, not some fly-by-night supplier on AliExpress. That said, Sonore doesn't have plans for user upgradable microSD cards. Upgrades will be handled through them very soon. I've been told an introductory upgrade price will also be offered for a limited time and this goes for all Rendu units, not just the opticalRendu and Signature Rendu SE optical.

     

    The 400GB card in my Rendus is a touch small for what I'd like to store on it. Given that we can "all" stream lossless high resolution from Qobuz (sorry Canada), the need for local storage may be decreased for many. I'd love to store only my Mobile Fidelity, DSD rips, and other non-streamable gems locally on the Rendu and stream everything else via Qobuz. I completely understand that some consumers aren't satisfied with sound quality unless their music can be stored on local SSDs powered by linear supplies resting on butterfly feet floating on unicorn tears, so relying more on streaming isn't the end game solution for them (note: if we can't make fun of ourselves we are in bigger trouble than we think). However, most people really don't have large local storage needs. 400Gb may be a little light, but 500GB and 1TB could be the cat's pajamas (you know that phrase has more to do with Jazz music than felines right?). 

     


    The opticalRendu and Signature Rendu SE optical In My System

     

    Between January and June I had the two Rendus in my system and connected to various DACs from dCS, EMM Labs, APL HiFi, ELAC / Audio Alchemy and more. My complete Ubiquiti UniFi network has optical ports that enable me to connect these devices as easy as a copper Ethernet device. In these early days I used the opticalRendu as a Roon Ready endpoint in my Constellation / TAD system. The sound was fantastic to say the least. I've noted in the past that the opticalRendu is the best Rendu every created by the team at Sonore and for the most part this still stands. Wait, what's up with "for the most part" you ask? OK, the optical series is what you want for sure, but I may now have a preference for the Signature Rendu SE optical. I can't say that I'd easily pick out the sonic differences in a blind test but it's the complete package with linear power supply built just for the Rendu inside. I can't wait to get my new speakers and listen to the Signature Rendu SE optical for hours upon hours. That sounds like so much fun said my wife at the dinner table last night. Just joking. Only us HiFi nuts would look forward to that like a kid at Christmas time. Believe me, I am so looking forward to it!

     

    In early June the local storage option enabled microSD card was shipped overnight via UPS and I've been using it ever since. I actually shutdown my Roon ROCK for two reasons. The first is that it isn't needed in this configuration. The second is that it can interfere with the configuration I'm about to detail below. 

     

    Using the local storage option on an opticalRendu raises the question, how does one control and manage music? There are options and I tried most of them. I found all but one unsatisfactory. First let's go over the opticalRendu configuration I used, followed by how I controlled music playback. On the opticalRendu I only have two apps installed, Squeezebox Server and Squeezelite. The server is required for configuration of items such as DSD playback, library scanning, and streaming service setup. Squeezelite is the app that enables playback to the opticalRendu or even iOS device. All other apps such as HQPlayer NAA, Roon Ready, MPD / DLNA Renderer, etc... can be uninstalled. 

     

    At first I cringed at the thought of using anything with the prefix "Squeeze" in its name. Talk about going back in time 15 years! However, once the Rendu is setup the hideous Squeezebox Server interface can be ignored. For this to work I need a user interface on my iOS device that enabled music selection of both the locally stored content and Qobuz for streaming. This had to be a single interface and not one that required AirPlaying / Casting audio from the iOS device. The iOS app that met my requirements is iPeng. Yes, another blast from the past for many of us. Over the years iPeng's developer has continually improved the app, so much so that I highly recommend it rather than just recommend it because it's the lesser of the evils. iPeng is really good. 

     

    Recapping my opticalRendu setup: Squeezebox Server and Squeezelite installed on the Rendu and iPeng installed on my iPad Pro. I pointed Squeezebox Server to the local folder on the microSD card and added my Qobuz credentials for streaming. All was right in the Audiophile Style world. As an additional step it's possible to setup a QNAP or Synology NAS to automatically reach out to the opticalRendu to backup its local storage to the NAS. Nothing needs to be configured on the opticalRendu for this to work.

     

    During the last few weeks I've been streaming my favorite podcasts, streaming lossless Radio Paradise, streaming lossless Qobuz, and playing a selection of locally stored content on the opticalRendu, all to my great satisfaction. This setup really checks a lot of boxes and surprised my cynical self quite a bit. There probably are other platforms that can do all this, I just don't know of another one that does it all at this high of level. 

     

     

    Part One Wrap-up

     

    Just when some are doubting the need or capability of D to D converters, Sonore releases the opticalRendu, Signature Rendu SE optical, and enables local storage on the platform. There isn't a single box solution available with the same level of performance, flexibility, and cutting edge features as the Rendus. In addition, there isn't a yearly, monthly, or lifetime fee associated with all this greatness from Sonore. As soon as my new speakers are installed I'll be listening through the noiseless optical network connection of the Signature Rendu SE optical and publishing an extensive review of its sound quality in a reference system. Stay tuned.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Product Info:

    Product: Sonore opticalRendu and Signature Rendu SE optical

    Price: $1,295 and $3,445

    Product Pages - LINK

     

     

     

    Associated Equipment:

     

     

     



    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments



    1 hour ago, bobflood said:

    This may appeal to some but I don't think Roon with its robust functionality need be concerned. Also, this is totally against the whole reason for the Rendu series of products. The Rendus were supposed to be an endpoint quiet zone with all the storage, retrieval and associated processing happening elsewhere. This puts it all back in one place.

     

    There is still the problem of back-up and additions/deletions. The material for the SD card will have to be archived somewhere else and new material will have to be obtained on a real computer and then moved to the SD card.

     

    I tried this for streaming only with both of my Rendus a long time back (it has always been possible to run both Squeezelite and LMS together on a Rendu) and it worked fine but I thought that it sounded better with LMS running on another machine (a sonicTransporter) elsewhere on the network.

     

    In the end, no matter how you dress it up, it is still LMS.

     

    For those asking if this will work with Roon, I doubt it. Roon core does not run on the Rendus, only Roon Ready which is strictly a rendering function.

    I don't expect everyone will need this feature and I would not force the cost on people that don't. This is why it's an option. This don't change the unit in anyway because it's just a micro SD card swap and playback is from RAM as usual. This is computer audio after all and clearly you will need to manage the files. You don't have to use LMS / SqueezeLite and if you prefer you can use MPD / YMPD for local playback. A lot of people use LMS and really like. I think LMS it's great and hard to argue the price...free.

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    1 hour ago, R1200CL said:

    I wonder if MQA support now make more sense for Sonore, as you could also play Tidal through iPeng ?

     

    No.

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    Pretty cool new addition and great that new features are being added to older devices. 

    Not something I would use though. I was hoping for native app support or Chromecast. 

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    1 hour ago, vortecjr said:

    I don't expect everyone will need this feature and I would not force the cost on people that don't. This is why it's an option. This don't change the unit in anyway because it's just a micro SD card swap and playback is from RAM as usual. This is computer audio after all and clear ly you will need to manage the files. You don't have to use LMS / SqueezeLite and if you prefer you can use MPD / YMPD for local playback. A lot of people use LMS and really like. I think LMS it's great and hard to argue the price...free.

    Please don't misunderstand me. As I said, this will appeal to some users especially those who don't wish to pay for software. I used LMS for so many years and although it worked, I was really happy when Roon came along. I don't mind paying them for a very good and getting better product. I can stream Tidal and Qobuz, have great metadata, seamless integration with HQPlayer and I can do it with ease using Sonre and SGC products. I no longer have a local library so MPD/YMPD are not something I would use.

     

    Thanks for the continued innovation.

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    43 minutes ago, bunno77 said:

    Pretty cool new addition and great that new features are being added to older devices. 

    Not something I would use though. I was hoping for native app support or Chromecast. 

    There is not much happening on that front.

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    34 minutes ago, bobflood said:

    Please don't misunderstand me. As I said, this will appeal to some users especially those who don't wish to pay for software. I used LMS for so many years and although it worked, I was really happy when Roon came along. I don't mind paying them for a very good and getting better product. I can stream Tidal and Qobuz, have great metadata, seamless integration with HQPlayer and I can do it with ease using Sonre and SGC products. I no longer have a local library so MPD/YMPD are not something I would use.

     

    Thanks for the continued innovation.

    No worries. Let me say this...LMS supports those features including streaming to HQ Player along with hundreds of other plug-ins. Anyways by all means use Roon or whatever else you like because we support it. We are all about options.  

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    10 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I should've noted that I'm using the very upgraded PSU with the opticalRendu.

    Would you mind telling us what "very upgraded PSU" you are using?

     

    Many of us are looking for a PS for our ORs.

     

    Thank you

     

    G

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    5 hours ago, vortecjr said:

    SqueezeLite was the reason we made a renderer in the first place. I bet most people don't know the name of the first renderer we made that featured SqueezeLite. Maybe firedog knows:)     

    That renderer sounded quite good, especially with a good PS. 
    But all of the Rendu series is better, both in terms of sound and performance,  and the OS is much better now. 

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    7 hours ago, thotdoc said:

    Would you mind telling us what "very upgraded PSU" you are using?

     

    Many of us are looking for a PS for our ORs.

     

    Thank you

     

    G

    Chris had a Sonore Signature power supply from the microRendu review. So we updated it for this review. It's more or less the PS in the Signature Rendu SE optical he will be reviewing in part two.  

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    5 hours ago, firedog said:

    That renderer sounded quite good, especially with a good PS. 
    But all of the Rendu series is better, both in terms of sound and performance,  and the OS is much better now. 

    Agree. 

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    8 hours ago, thotdoc said:

    Would you mind telling us what "very upgraded PSU" you are using?

     

    Many of us are looking for a PS for our ORs.

     

    Thank you

     

    G

    It’s also visible in the video. 

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    10 hours ago, vortecjr said:

    There is not much happening on that front.

    I personally would be happy to pay for another SD card if the big streaming services Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Google Play and or Chromecast were added.
    There is the thread about Chromecast so others are interested in this too but maybe not so happy to pay.

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    I believe Google’s requirements to turn an endpoint into a Chromecast endpoint are quite steep and impossible for most. Plus, Google owns StreamUnlimited, the company that makes such endpoints. 

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    2 hours ago, vortecjr said:

    Chris had a Sonore Signature power supply from the microRendu review. So we updated it for this review. It's more or less the PS in the Signature Rendu SE optical he will be reviewing in part two.  

    Thank you.

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    25 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I believe Google’s requirements to turn an endpoint into a Chromecast endpoint are quite steep and impossible for most. Plus, Google owns StreamUnlimited, the company that makes such endpoints. 

    Yeah I wouldn't doubt it but more and more companies are beginning to incorporate it. I am just being hopeful.

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    3 hours ago, vortecjr said:

    Chris had a Sonore Signature power supply from the microRendu review. So we updated it for this review. It's more or less the PS in the Signature Rendu SE optical he will be reviewing in part two.  

    But you can't get this power supply without buying a Signature Rendu SE optical, right?  You can only get the cost reduced version (ultraSupply) for $529.  Does Chris's unit include the Turbo option (Tier II upgrade)?

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    Talk about going back in time 15 years! Click on the link to Sonore's terrible website. They expect you to buy their $3445 Signature Rendu SE optical based on one low-res picture of the front of the unit. No picture of the rear of the unit and the connectivity. Yes, that website is a real blast from the past as it looks like it was designed by a high school kid in 2004. 

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    2 minutes ago, ArthurOtt said:

    Talk about going back in time 15 years! Click on the link to Sonore's terrible website. They expect you to buy their $3445 Signature Rendu SE optical based on one low-res picture of the front of the unit. No picture of the rear of the unit and the connectivity. Yes, that website is a real blast from the past as it looks like it was designed by a high school kid in 2004. 

    Is this comment meant to add to the community or increase our enjoyment of this wonderful hobby? 

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    Yeah, too bad Sonore doesn't put together some really slick packaging and promises like LH Labs did - then audiofools would have no problem dropping two or three times that for products that DON'T EVEN EXIST YET. But boy those mock up pics sure are nice.... 

     

    I think if you know you want/need/can afford the Signature SE a fancier website isn't going to make a difference in one's purchasing decisions. It's out of stock anyway, so obviously many care more about the sound and function than a pretty website. 

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    Chris,

    I have been waiting a watching for more on the new Rendu devices.  Many of us have spend a lot of time and effort working on other D-D devices. NUC’s etc.  We have had what I consider pretty good luck in improving sound quality.   This is a lot of fun, expense and work.  I for one am very interested in your results. And your new speakers!   

     

    To me one of the most interesting parts of the signature Rendu device is close integration of the power supply and other improvements they have provided in that box.  There is also mention of software improvements for Sound Quality.  I would love to hear more about that.  With all the AudioLinux and Euphony OS testing and listening some of us have done this is of great interest to a part of the community at least.  

     

    Solving the AirPlay/Chromecast issues is also of great interest but maybe not in the Rendu for now.  I have just dedicated a digital input on my system for this and have used a HDMI audio extractor to “solve” that problem.  It is a bit brute force but it expands the system greatly.  

     

    If we can reduce the complexity of our systems with devices like the Signature Rendu is a big win!  Is the Signature Rendu SE Optical Goldilocks?  “Just right?”  I am waiting for part two.

     

    Bob

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    3 minutes ago, charlesphoto said:

     

    Paul Hynes barely has a website and people are paying and cueing up years in advance for his power supplies. Last least with Sonore one can see if the product is in stock and order from the site. Website aesthetics is really is a non-issue in this hobby, imo, esp for gear that works and is available now, and isn't just some magic pixie dust in an EE's imagination. 

    In fact, one should be cautious about flashy websites when the company doesn’t have a proven track record. 

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