Article Index
Audiolab 6000N streamer
p3 measured performance
All Pages

Audiolab 6000N Play

We reviewed Audiolab's 6000N Play budget streamer last month. Audiolab think it's better than we said! Here are the issues, explained by Noel Keywood.




Audiolab tell us our review of their 6000N internet server published last month (September 2019 issue) did not convey its full abilities. And they are right! But perhaps not – since what we published was correct. Here’s another look, raising many digital issues, most related to the Play-Fi app it uses.

   To recap, Audiolab’s 6000N is a budget (£449) internet streamer that comes with a wide range of internet music streaming services, including free Spotify and CD quality (paid for) Tidal, handled by the DTS Play-fi app. With an on-board high quality digital-to-audio convertor (DAC) chip from ESS, the ESS ES9018K2M, it potentially offers very high quality – but in last month’s review we had reservations. Reviewer Jason Kennedy, who has heard a lot of ’net streamers, wasn’t impressed by its sound and our lab measurements showed limitations when measured with a Windows 10 based DNLA network server. Audiolab tell us they feel the 6000N is better than we portrayed it – so is it?

   The 6000N gave mediocre quality from a DLNA server (slightly better than CD) when originally tested, but very good results, in keeping with Audiolab's claims, when running hi-res (24/48) test files from an iPhone. The 6000N is not purposed for playback from files stored on an iPhone so these results were not published; it was reviewed from wired servers by Jason. 

Why mention iPhone? Because if playback from iPhone music files (24/48) show good results then in theory at least performance from internet music servers should be similar. But they were not under our test conditions. Why? What was going on?


 A lot of empty space behind the facade shows the 6000N has been built to match the 6000A amplifier. I has a linear power supply with toroidal mains transformer. 


   After much re-testing, the unusual conditions imposed by Play-Fi, set by the way it works, became clear. Unlike conventional streamers, such as Naim’s NDX 2, Play-Fi routes music through the ‘phone (or tablet). Turn the phone off and the music stops, unlike the Naim and most other streamers where digital audio is delivered direct by wired ethernet, the phone only acting as a control device; turn the phone off and the music continues. 

   Because of this unusual way of working Play-fi performance is affected by data rate and transmission conditions through the phone and its wi-fi link, a source of both complexity and variability. Suddenly, both phone and the internet router's wi-fi link become an issue and, indeed, Audiolab still feel this is an issue, asking us to use an Android phone instead of an iPhone! But if performance is phone dependent – which it may be – then the system has problems.

   Bringing me to the second main issue: listening modes. Play-Fi has two, standard mode that runs by default and Critical Listening mode that must be selected when establishing a zone. But why are two modes needed? Standard mode, as I'll call it, gives slightly lower than CD quality (95dB dynamic range) but with it the app is fast and responsive. Also it plays all files. With an iPhone 6S Plus sited within 6ft of router and Audiolab 6000N, Play-Fi in Standard mode streamed all files from our Melco N10/100 server, including 24/192 test files. Its response to play commands was acceptably fast. No problems then, but not hi-res quality. 




Hi-Fi World, Powered by Joomla!; Hosted by Joomla Wired.