If you read my review of the Innuos Zenith SE you will know that I considered that server to be a game changer, a product that redefined what was possible with digital audio. It did that by redefining what a digital source is capable of, essentially by proving that the source is king in digital audio as much as it is with analogue. It achieved that by serving up the bits with considerably less noise than the competition, essentially producing a far cleaner and more precisely timed signal for DACs and streamers to turn into analogue. The Zenith SE was a limited-edition piece (only 100 were made) and even though it was expensive for a server (£5,000) they sold out within a year and proved to Innuos that they were on the right track. I have used the SE as a reference ever since and have yet to find its equal.
In May 2018 at the Munich show, Innuos unveiled the Statement, which incorporated everything the company knew about making a totally uncompromised network server. Their demonstrations involved contrasting a Zentih SE with the Statement, the difference was surprisingly stark given that the SE had set such a high benchmark. But the Statement is twice the price and comes in two boxes. That said, it has taken a while to finally ship at the end of 2018.
The Statement looks a bit like a Zenith SE plus an extra box, but a closer inspection reveals that the casework has been changed, most markedly by placing the drive slot in the centre and revising the stealth styling to suit. The top of the box also has distinctive styling which presumably adds rigidity as well as aesthetic appeal. The top case contains the SSD storage, a custom motherboard designed to minimise EMI and eight DC power rails, each with double regulation (16 regulators in total). Four rails are for the motherboard, with one each for the SSD storage, Ethernet clock, USB clock, and for the USB 5V. The lower and more substantial case accepts the incoming power and converts AC to DC in order to isolate the high voltage and keep its emissions away from the sensitive elements in the server itself. As with the Zenith SE the power supply side of the Statement was designed by Sean Jacobs, an engineer who designs and builds power supplies for Naim products among other things; if this and the SE are anything to go by, they warrant investigation.
The boxes are connected by two umbilical cables, one on either side of the case and which are unusually short. This is by design, to make the system look like one box. There’s no drawback in terms of performance due to the 10mm aluminium covers on the Statement and in fact, the shorter cables do help. Having said this, Innuos can provide longer cables on-demand. The connections provided look much like those on a Zenith with network in- and outputs on RJ45 sockets for ethernet cable, a system that means you don’t need a network switch but can simply link the Statement directly to a streamer thus cutting out an electrically noisy computer peripheral. There is a USB 3.0 connection for Backup and an extra USB 2.0 output alongside a dedicated USB DAC output. This features one of two OCXO clocks (the other is for the Ethernet), both of which have their own dedicated supplies and claim 3ppb accuracy. This element was designed to improve the quality of signals streamed from both the server and the world beyond. If you use the Statement with a USB DAC its output can be controlled by one of the Squeezebox oriented third-party apps such as iPeng (iOS) or Orange Squeeze (Android), which both offer the ability to sign up to high-res streaming services. Alternatively, and rather more attractively (albeit also more costly) is Roon; the Innuos can function as a Roon Core which allows this usefully reliable and informative control application to send signal out to Roon ready DACs (and even some that aren’t).
There are various ways of getting music onto this server, the simplest of which is to rip your CD collection with the onboard drive and have its software look up the metadata. But that is also the slowest and if you already have a collection of music files a bit pointless. If that’s the case you can use the my.innous.com online dashboard where there are various methods of transferring files from a computer or drive to the Statement. This is also where you can tweak metadata by correcting file names, adding artwork etc. and change settings such as whether to use the Innuos as a Roon Core or UPnP server. It’s been updated in the last year to include a quick import mode and now offers automatic artwork search alongside the option to upload your own. Like most server dashboards, it’s a little confusing to start with but doesn’t take long to understand. Of the import options, the easiest is probably via the auto import folder that appears on your desktop if you open the server, put new files in there and go to the dashboard to import them onto the drive. There is also a quarantine file for duplicates and unknown files which you can edit through the web browser. If you want to see a well organised, fully artworked collection, with a bit of homework the dashboard allows you to tidy things up so that any control app looks complete. Roon, however, is the better bet.
Listening commenced with the Statement sending signal via USB to an iFi Pro iDSD DAC on a Vertere HB cable, it proved a highly rewarding experience thanks to the incredible sense of space that the server manages to find in so many recordings. Not all of them of course but Nils Frahm’s ‘Momentum’ [All Melody, Erased Tapes] had plenty around the deep, dark textures of this beautifully rich piece of music. What was also rather nice was the undulating bass pulse that gently underpins the track; this had shape and depth like I haven’t encountered before, not even on vinyl. This server is particularly good at unfolding everything it plays; the Zenith SE seemed to have vanishing noise levels and phenomenal resolution, but this ups the ante by further opening up each track and placing the music in the room. Dynamics as well as imaging benefit from this, presumably because the quieter sounds are clearer and the dynamic range has been expanded at this end of the scale. Tape hiss was always the scourge of analogue recordings, but for some reason it makes things sound more real when it turns up on digital releases. Yussef Kammal’s Black Focus[Brownswood] is a case in point. I had always presumed it to be a digital recording, but the appearance of tape hiss via the Statement proved otherwise, ultimately revealing why it’s such an appealing recording.
I’m still fairly confident that Radiohead’s Moon Shaped Pool[XL] was captured bit by bit, but the sheer amount of work that went into its creation became all the more apparent here. There are layers underneath the ones you can usually hear, and sounds that extend way outside the bounds of the loudspeakers. It’s as if every one of the multi tracks can be individually accessed yet the music as a whole coalesces to create a powerful overall effect. I love the way the Statement reveals the tension in ‘Full Stop’ even when it’s played at a sensible level; all those micro dynamics and nuances come out to reveal precisely how neurotic Thom Yorke and Co. have become since the exuberance of ‘Creep’.
Being a fan of Ethernet rather than USB connections I felt the need to hook the Innuos up to a streamer, an AURALiC ARIES G2 to be precise… and it is precise. This brought out greater depth of analysis, exposing even more of the minutiae that goes into the production of a Radiohead album. It also made it clear that the low-level resolution of the Statement is in another league to the Zenith SE – you really don’t know how much is going on in the shadows without a server of this calibre.
Spinning an old favourite in Steely Dan’s ‘Show Biz Kids’ [Countdown to Ecstasy, ABC Dunhill] revealed a remarkable amount of three-dimensional space in the recording. Again the layers were peeled apart and the quality of composition, playing, and syncopation made all the more palpable. Then came the guitar solo on ‘My Old School’; this always sounds good, but the highs on this server are incredibly clean and open, so here it was even more breathtaking. As ever with higher resolution, the qualities of good recordings become more apparent. This happened with Patricia Barber’s ‘Subway Station #5’ [A Distortion Of Love, Antilles], an intense and dynamic track that can get chaotic with lesser sources and is hard work to enjoy. The Statement did its trick of opening it up and making space for all of the musicians to do their stuff in highly compelling style, and the beautifully open and extended treble remained clean even when the going got rough.
At this point I thought that it would be interesting to try the Naim NDX 2 streamer/DAC that had only been in the system for a few hours. I know it’s a sin to use a Naim before it’s had a couple of weeks warm up, but deadlines aren’t always that helpful. It proved a rewarding experience thanks largely to the improved timing that was brought to the table. The balance was warmer and the bass a little thicker, but the beat was so well defined that I couldn’t help but get involved with the music especially when Bugge Wesseltoft, Dan Berglund, and Magnus Ostrom got going on their forthcoming album Reflections and Odysseys[Jazzland]. This band should obviously have been called b.w.t. in honour of its similarities to e.s.t., but they went for Rymden (must be a Scandi thing). Regardless of the name, they make some superb music that sounds absolutely stonking on the Statement. There was acoustic space as far as the walls and a soundstage that expands out from the speakers to put you in the front row. This is what living is all about. I have to admit to getting rather carried away with this combination; it mesmerised me with a whole raft of great albums and the notepad was forgotten. Suffice to say, if you want musical engagement and phenomenal levels of detail give it a go.
Out of interest I contrasted the Statement with the Zenith SE, something that doesn’t come naturally to control apps, but I coerced Roon into playing ball and it made it clear that the bigger, two box server is significantly more capable when it comes to a sense of three dimensionality. Put on an orchestral recordings and you can sense the shape and size of the venue and almost feel the air within it. I thought that the SE was pretty good at this already, but the Statement proves that there is more to be had. I also played quite a lot of music from Tidal which proved to be more appealing than usual, the clocking on both outputs (I used USB) clearly helps to bring out the vibrancy and air in the signal whilst reducing the slightly harsh nature of higher frequencies. Locally stored music still sounds more relaxed and spacious, but the gap has clearly been narrowed quite usefully. Given the trend toward cloud streamed listening this feature would be nice to see on Innuos’s more affordable products or as a standalone piece of kit. It helped me to discover an artist who looks like becoming a favourite. Gwenifer Raymond, a finger picking guitar player who despite not being American (she’s Welsh) plays in the American Primitive style like a demon; I have Tidal’s playlisting to thank for that find.
The Innuos Statement takes what the company did with the SE and goes considerably further in the quest to unearth maximum musical brilliance in any recording. I suspect that the more I use it the more I’ll hear, especially if paired with better conversion, amplification, and transduction. I am confident in saying that it has few – if any – peers in the network server field, which means that it is one of if not the best digital source you can buy today.
- Type: Music server with SSD storage, CD ripper and separate power supply
- Storage: 1, 2 or 4TB
- Network connection: RJ45 Ethernet
- Digital Outputs: Independently clocked RJ45 Ethernet, USB
- Back up connection: USB
- Formats supported: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, DSD, ALAC, OGG Vorbis, AAC, MP3
- Sample rates: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4KHz. 192kHz, 352.8KHz, 384KHz, DSD64, DSD128, DSD256
- Bit depths: 1bit, 16bit, 24bit, 32bit
- CD rip format: FLAC (zero compression), WAV
- Streaming services supported: Qobuz, Tidal, Spotify Premium
- User Interface: Web browser, third party control applications
- Other Features: UPnP server, DLNA device compatible, Roon Core
- Features: alternate ripping methods, Sonos integration, configurable DSD mode, low latency USB option.
- Dimensions (H×W×D): server 70 ×420 ×320mm, PSU 105 ×420 ×320mm
- Weight: server 11kg, PSU 15kg
- Price: 1TB £9,800; 2TB £10,300; 4TB £10,800
Tel: +44(0) 1793 384048