Apple's AirPlay technology is seeing increased implementation in high-end home audio systems, with the latest example being two freshly announced Elite-branded audiophile networked players from Pioneer.
Top billing goes to the $699 N-50, which is encased in an "armored chassis" the company says cuts back on unwanted noise artifacts. As far as inputs go, you'll find a frontside USB port for iOS devices, coaxial, and optical ports with output connections including coaxial, optical, and gold-plated analog RCA jacks. Also specific to the upper-tier model are twin EL transformers that reduce interference plus two technologies (Advanced Sound Retriever / Sound Retriever AIR) Pioneer claims improve the quality of compressed music. If you can make do without one of those EL transformers, the rear digital inputs, armored chassis, and improvements to lossy audio, the N-30 should offer a fairly comparable listening experience at $499.
Both players carry a 2.5-inch LCD that displays metadata, album art, and the file format of the current track, and they are each capable of 192kHz/24-bit WAV / FLAC lossless playback. AirPlay isn't the only streaming utility on board either; Pioneer has included DLNA 1.5 integration along with vTuner's internet radio service. Further, iOS and Android users have the ability to download apps that can control the hi-fi devices. There is one nagging downside, though. If you'd like Wi-Fi connectivity — and we can't imagine why anyone wouldn't — you'll need to shell out $150 for an wireless adapter. Bluetooth? That'll tack on another $100. It all adds up to a lot to pay for high-end AirPlay audio, but nobody ever said that looking down your nose at Apple TV owners came cheap.