Since its launch in 2013, the Aurender W20 has occupied the enviable position of "the music server others are judged against." Revised and refined in 2019, the new W20SE (Special Edition) raises the bar again in both user experience and absolute audio performance.
W20SE is the music server of choice for the finest audio systems in the world. Designed to be used with high-performance digital-to-analog converters, the Aurender W20SE is one of the few music servers to provide support for external word clocks used in professional audio and recording studios. Additionally, a dual-wire mode AES/EBU used by some reference grade digital-to-analog converters to allow separate transmission of left and right channels for better fidelity. However, even without using an external word clock input or dual AES/EBU outputs, W20SE’s battery power supply provides a dramatically lower noise floor for a totally silent background. With a 4TB internal SSD and a 1TB SSD caching drive for playback, the W20SE is the ideal solution for even the most extensive high-resolution music collections.
In digital audio, jitter and noise in the audio signal can adversely affect the performance of digital-to-analog converters. The Aurender W20 is was the world’s first music server to completely eliminate noise from AC power supplies and AC mains through the use of LiFePO4 (LFP) batteries to power the audio circuitry.W20SE uses the same scheme to minimize the noise in audio output. An FPGA-based All Digital Phase Locked Loop system with Oven-Controlled Crystal Oscillator (OCXO) clock is used to maintain long term jitter to below negligible levels and specially designed circuitry provides clean, noise-free power to the dedicated USB 2.0 digital audio output. A solid-state caching drive for playback isolated by extensive shielding using thick aluminum partitions also minimize and eliminate the many types of jitter and noise usually associated with the use of disk drives for playback.
Designed to be matched with the highest performing digital-to-analog converters, the Aurender W20SE is equipped with various SPDIF outputs (Dual AES/EBU, Coaxial BNC and Optical) and one dedicated USB Audio Class 2.0 output. For network connectivity and file transfers, the W20SE comes with one a Gigabit Ethernet port and two USB 2.0 data ports.
The Aurender Conductor App turns the iPad into a versatile user interface for all Aurender music servers. All settings and functions of the Aurender server can be easily accessed through the Settings menu, and Conductor comes with extensive features to make browsing and playing high resolution music collections a breeze. Two streaming services, Qobuz and Tidal (subscription required) are embedded within the Conductor App allowing easy access to millions of high-resolution albums. Being integrated, links to content found on streaming services can be added to you main file library making it easy to combine and compile content in one location. Aurender Conductor can be utilized on both IOS and Android platforms, so users can access their music using the Apple iPad or various Android phones or tablets.
Aurender’s MQA Core Decoder upgrade enables MQA Core or first unfold allowing playback of MQA files at up to 88.2kHz or 96kHz. This is beneficial if using a non-MQA DAC as Core Decoding will deliver some of the MQA benefit from MQA encoded content. Additionally, MQA Core Decoder will work with DACs that perform MQA rendering which is the second stage of MQA decoding. Together, they provides full MQA decoding.
The protocol to send digital audio signal through COAX or AES/EBU is called SPDIF.
SPDIF sends clock and data together without a handshake. The DAC’s clock needs to follow the clock signal contained in the signal to avoid overflow or underrun. This operation of trying to sync to the clock in SPDIF can generate jitter in the DAC’s clock.
A better way is using the DAC’s clock and data only from the music source, however, this way sync cannot be guaranteed. To make the DAC’s clock act as the master clock and still remain in sync with the data, the audio source needs a master clock input which outputs the audio data in sync with the incoming master clock. This way jitter in the SPDIF connection from audio source to the DAC is virtually eliminated.
When the user wants to use separate master clock, music server with master clock input is needed as well as a DAC with master clock input.
Also, a word clock is typically used in recording studios to synchronize timing between digital devices ensuring jitter-free and time-perfect data transmission. W20SE can accept word clocks with the following frequencies: Master clock: 10MHz, 12.8MHz, Word clock: 44.1KHz and 48KHz in multiples from 1 to 512. W20SE supports both word clock (dCS, DACs or similar) or Master Clock (MSB DACs or similar) inputs.
Dual-wire AES/EBU mode is sometimes used in reference digital-to-analog converters to double the level of resolution possible on an AES/EBU digital interconnect. When the AES/EBU output is used in dual-mode, the left and right channel information transmitted at 192kHz sample rate to make a 24-Bit, 384Hz stereo transmission. Since the maximum frequency is halved, transmission line requirement becomes less critical.
Two banks of LiFePO4 batteries alternately power audio components and perform recharging. This technique completely isolates the audio components from ground noise and also reduces jitter and the distortion often incurred in the conversion of AC to DC.
An additional bank of LiFePO4 batteries act as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and protect the system in case any sudden power outages. The UPS will always allow the W20SE to safely shut down.
OCXOs are among the most accurate and stable clocks available today. OCXOs are many orders of magnitude more accurate and stable than the ordinary and commonly used crystal oscillators found in computers. Also, temperature changes can cause the crystal oscillators frequency to fluctuate which can lead to jitter in the digital audio signal path. Moreover, ordinary crystal oscillators are much less stable and lose accuracy over time. With OCXO clocks, a very stable high-grade crystal oscillator is employed and is enclosed in a compartment that’s kept at a constant temperature to prevent jitter created by temperature fluctuations.
Many DACs support DSD decoding only on their USB inputs but not on SPDIF or AES/EBU. That’s why the Aurender W20SE features an extremely high-quality DSD-to-PCM conversion performed by FPGA. Regardless of how fast the CPU is, performing DSD to PCM conversion by software results in poor sound quality because it requires thousands of filter calculations in parallel. The W20SE accomplishes the DSD to PCM conversion precisely using thousands of tap filters inside the FPGA delivering superior audio performance.
An All-Digital Phase-Locked Loop system (ADPLL) incorporating Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) along with OCXO clocks precisely times digital audio data transmission and minimizes jitter to below negligible levels.
An internal drive providing 4TB of SSD content storage and a 1TB SSD caching drive are housed in a vault of machined aluminum which protects the audio circuitry from the effects of EMI interference. Caching using the 1TB SSD is done files and for streaming content. This increases stability and improves sound quality of files and when using streaming services such as Qobuz or Tidal.
The dedicated next-generation USB Audio Class 2.0 output is designed to deliver an exceptionally transparent audio signal free of noise and is shielded from any outside electronic interference. The W20SE’s USB Audio output provides a noise and jitter-free transmission to the DAC to deliver the best performance possible.
A new linear power supply was designed is for powering the CPU, storage and other areas of the W20SE’s circuit topology. The linear supply provides a highly stable and low-noise environment for this critical circuitry.
LAN Port is doubly isolated – this 2X isolated LAN port isolates the W20SE from any noise introduced by the routers LAN connection.
Best practice is storing music on W20SE’s internal SSDs. However, Aurender’s platform is capable of selecting and playing content stored from a NAS or an external USB hard drive using Folder/File browsing. Content on the USB HDD or NAS drive can be conveniently copied to the internal storage of W20SE using the Aurender Conductor App. Or, you can use a Mac/PC to transfer content over the network if you wish.
Aurender allows for users to communicate directly to technical support personal directly from the Aurender Conductor app. Sending a Remote Support Request allows technicians to quickly diagnose and correct issues over the internet.
|Power||Battery + SMPS||Battery + Linear Power|
|Storage (System + Cache)||SSD 240GB||SSD 1TB|
|Storage (Content)||3.5inch HDD 6TB x 2||SSD 4TB|
|LAN Port||Normal||Double Isolated|
|OCXO(Main Clock)||Yes||Yes (Upgraded)|
|Audio USB||Attached to main board||Plug-in module with better isolation|
|Dual AES Output||Up to 24/192kHz||Up to 24/384kHz|
|DSD Output on SPDIF (DoP)||DSD64 only||Up to 128|
|PCM Upsampling||No||Single Wire: Up to 192kHz, Dual Wire: Up to 384kHz|
|Extreme Play Mode||No||Yes|
|Supports Native DSD Output||No||Yes|
|Weight||21kg / 46 lb||21.1kg / 46.5lb|
|MQA Core Decoding||Option(Separate Purchase)||Included|
|DSD Output on USB(Native)||X||Up to DSD512|
|Master Clock Input||Same as W20SE||Word Clock or Master Clock Input (BNC) 10MHz, 12.8MHz
(44.1kHz and 48kHz multiples from 1 to 512), Input impedance 75Ω
|PCM Output on USB||Up to 192kHz||Up to 768kHz|
|PCM Output on SPDIF||Up to 192kHz||Up to 192kHz (Single Wire), Up to 384kHz (Dual Wire)|
|Compatible Formats||Same as W20SE||DSD (DSF, DFF), WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, M4A, APE and others|
|Display||Same as W20SE||Dual 3.7″ AMOLED|
|Digital Audio Outputs||Same as W20SE||USB, COAX, Optical, BNC, AES/EBU x 2 (Dual-Wire)|
|Dimension(W x H x D)||Same as W20SE||430mm / 16.93in x 106mm / 4.17in x 370mm / 14.6in|
|DSD Output on USB (DoP)||Up to DSD128||Up to DSD256|
|DSD Output on SPDIF|
(DSD to PCM)
|DSD64 only||Up to DSD512 to 88.2/176.4 (Single Wire),
Up to DSD512 to 352.8kHz (Dual Wire)