Audiolab challenges Naim with feature-packed flagship 9000N streamer

Audiolab 9000N
(Image credit: Audiolab)

From a features point of view, it would be easier to list what’s missing on the Audiolab 9000N streamer such is the extensiveness of its offering. We’re used to seeing music streamers tick this box and that, no matter their price point, but Audiolab’s new flagship streamer must be one of the most versatile and feature-rich around. 

First spied at the High End Munich 2023 show and now starting to hit shelves, the 9000N brings network streaming to the British brand’s top-tier family of separates, which already comprises the 9000A integrated amplifier and 9000CDT CD transport. Much in the same way the 6000N Play and 7000N Play do to Audiolab’s entry-level and mid-range series respectively. While comparable to its streaming siblings in many ways, the 9000N has a significant point of differentiation. Instead of utilising the DTS Play-Fi platform to provide its core streaming and user experience, the new flagship is based on a platform built from the ground up around a Linux-based operating system. Hence the absence of 'Play' in its name.

Audiolab 9000N streamer

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

To that end, the 9000N’s has a primary control app that offers easy access to streaming services such as Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify and TuneIn Radio. Audiolab says this platform is big on user experience, offering handy features such as  Intelligent search functions and the ability to create multi-source playlists. Spotify and Tidal can also be streamed directly from their native apps, too, thanks to 'Connect' support for both, while AirPlay 2, UPnP and Roon are supported to round out a comprehensive catalogue of streaming features.

File support is just as all-encompassing – PCM up to 32-bit/768kHz and native DSD up to 22.5MHz (DSD512) across Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB, with full MQA decoding also on the menu. In addition to USB-A and USB-B inputs (for plugging in USB sticks and laptops/computers respectively) are a number of outputs – RCA, XLR, coaxial and optical – so that the streamer can be used with an external DAC.

Audiolab 9000N

(Image credit: Audiolab)

Of course, a successful streamer isn’t just a box-ticking exercise; it needs to sound just as complete. In a bid to achieve that goal, Audiolab once again has built its design around an ESS Technology DAC chip – this time the eight-channel ES9038PRO from the firm’s highest range. The British brand has leveraged the chipset’s digital-to-analogue conversion skills with its own proprietary circuitry, including an ultra-precision master clock for tip-top timing plus “remarkable signal-to-noise ratio and exceptional dynamic range”. Additionally, a new Class A circuit has been developed for the 9000N’s design, and as in previous Audiolab designs the DAC stage has been given its own power supply to provide clean power to the left and right channels individually.

The Audiolab 9000N network streamer is available now in a choice of black or silver, priced at £2499 / $3499 / AU$5499. That puts it directly in the firing line of Naim’s veteran Award winner, the ND5 XS 2, so needless to say we look forward to seeing how Audiolab’s apex achievement stacks up.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10 years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.