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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, 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. 

     

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I clicked on the link you provided and there was a picture of the back as well as the front. Plus, I was able to zoom into what you described as a low-res image and see everything clearly. The connectivity is Ethernet in, usb out according to the pictures and the text if it matters. 

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    16 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:)     

    You rock!

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    @The Computer Audiophile

    If you are able to compare the SQ, using different power supplies, I think that would have great value for many of us. 

    And comply with your statement in the above post as wel 😀

     

    It’s my understanding that Sonore supplied you with a PS that won’t be available for sale, unless you purchase the Signature SE. (And hence maybe why you didn’t notice much difference between the two Rendu’s).

     

    As we we all know, the chosen power supply for previous Rendu’s, did quite a noticeable difference to most people. 

     

    Also, Would you happen to know if your DAC’s draw any Vbus power ?

     

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    39 minutes ago, R1200CL said:

    @The Computer Audiophile

    If you are able to compare the SQ, using different power supplies, I think that would have great value for many of us. 

    And comply with your statement in the above post as wel 😀

     

    It’s my understanding that Sonore supplied you with a PS that won’t be available for sale, unless you purchase the Signature SE. (And hence maybe why you didn’t notice much difference between the two Rendu’s).

     

    As we we all know, the chosen power supply for previous Rendu’s, did quite a noticeable difference to most people. 

     

    Also, Would you happen to know if your DAC’s draw any Vbus power ?

     

    Great points, I will do my best to test these differences for Part 2. 

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    12 hours ago, bunno77 said:

    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.

    I want my car to run on water.

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    11 hours 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. 

    That is a hardware solution and not so much a software solution and there in lies the issues. 

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    10 hours ago, bunno77 said:

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

    Don't be because we will not implement that hardware solution. 

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    10 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I'm with you. I'd love it in the Rendu series. 

     

    Perhaps Sonore can pull off a Wadia move (getting iPod digital output) and get Casting.

    I'm not sure I understand this?

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    9 hours ago, rickca said:

    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)?

    Pretty much. That cost reduced power supply is really good though:) I don't keep track of these things;) 

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    9 hours 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. 

    LOL

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    1 hour ago, vortecjr said:

    I want my car to run on water.

    If you're going to be a dork at least be funny

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    4 minutes ago, bunno77 said:

    If you're going to be a dork at least be funny

    You already knew the answer when you posted here so don’t expect any humor. If you don’t want to buy the upgrade card for what it is don’t buy it. If you want Chromecast contact them and ask them to open source it. 

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    16 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Perhaps Sonore can pull off a Wadia move (getting iPod digital output) 

     

    The CCK and an iDevice pretty much get you there 😀

    (And sounds fantastic). 

     

    Good idea for a future product update, but then maybe iDevices has USB C. 

     

    And why not not add AirPlay? Limitations in bitrate maybe ? (24/48 max ?)

     

    Other possible future updates could be a second SD slot, and you can add your own SD card for music. And then why not another USB input for a SSD and a requirement for external power of that SSD. 

     

    And further, how about external power for Vbus, so people can use two of LPS-1 series power supplies. On the other hand that would probably only please those that only owns one of those power supplies from before.

     

    Unless such a setup beats a Uptone JS-2 or Sonore’s $529 PS 😀

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    3 hours ago, JoshM said:

    @The Computer Audiophile, I couldn’t help but chuckle and sit in awed reverence at your calling a system with TAD CR1s capable but “less than stellar.” 😛

    HiFi-

    It's all relative to taste and budget.  mp3 is fine for some; DSD 512 is necessary for others. $500 is outrageous for some; $50000 isn't enough for others. 

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    15 hours ago, R1200CL said:

     

    And why not not add AirPlay? Limitations in bitrate maybe ? (24/48 max ?)

     

    Other possible future updates could be a second SD slot, and you can add your own SD card for music. And then why not another USB input for a SSD and a requirement for external power of that SSD. 

     

    And further, how about external power for Vbus, so people can use two of LPS-1 series power supplies. On the other hand that would probably only please those that only owns one of those power supplies from before.

     

    Unless such a setup beats a Uptone JS-2 or Sonore’s $529 PS 😀

    We support Shairport Sync for those looking to stream from Apple devices. I assume you meant Airplay2.  Again, we are not going to add a chip level integration type features from third party companies. If an open source solution pops up we can look at it then. We would not add external power VBUS to a Rendu. The VBUS power output on the opticalRendu has dual low noise LDOs in parallel in a properly designed circuit from John S. That is not a feature you want to bypass with a hack.       

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    9 hours ago, JoshM said:

    @The Computer Audiophile, I couldn’t help but chuckle and sit in awed reverence at your calling a system with TAD CR1s capable but “less than stellar.” 😛

    The CR1s have been sold and I'm "stuck" with Focal Sopra N1 speakers until my new ones arrive :~)

     

    The TADs were stellar.

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    On 6/27/2019 at 4:06 AM, 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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    On 6/26/2019 at 6:41 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Storage on the sd card is happening no matter what because of the operating system. Now storing music there for super quick access isn’t worse than pulling a file over the network to be stored temporarily on the sd card / RAM. There isn’t any processing. Just reading the file that has to happen anyway. 

     

     

    Typically the OS (linux variant) loads the OS into RAM and doesn't actually make many filesystem accesses -- except to write to logs.

     

    Consider that the newest "SD Express" (SD 7.1) has a speed of 1 Gbs ... and of course that isn't needed for audio ... and when you go to direct SD card access you totally give up the fiberoptic Ethernet isolation ... so actually "pulling file over network" into RAM, really is better than storing on SD card ... jus' sayin' ;) 

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    16 minutes ago, jabbr said:

     

    Typically the OS (linux variant) loads the OS into RAM and doesn't actually make many filesystem accesses -- except to write to logs.

     

    Consider that the newest "SD Express" (SD 7.1) has a speed of 1 Gbs ... and of course that isn't needed for audio ... and when you go to direct SD card access you totally give up the fiberoptic Ethernet isolation ... so actually "pulling file over network" into RAM, really is better than storing on SD card ... jus' sayin' ;) 

    Not following you. 

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    I know its counter-intuitive but there is no speed advantage in storing music files locally.

     

    There is the disadvantage that locally stored files cause increased processing due to SD card access, as opposed to fiberoptic ethernet which completely isolates the music server processing (including disc access) from the DAC.

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