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Pinnacle Audio Folio - Pinnacle Audio Folio

By Riyad Emeran
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

6/10

Review Price free/subscription

Since the Folio is designed with audio quality in mind, Pinnacle Audio is confident that the device's internal DAC will be adequate to satisfy most audiophiles. However, if you absolutely, positively, must use your own external DAC, you'll find both optical and coaxial digital outputs at the rear of the Folio.

I certainly can't fault the sound quality using the Folio's internal DAC, but then I'm not what you'd call an obsessive audiophile. In fact I hooked the Folio up to a set of Ferguson Hill FH007 / FH008 speakers, which, it has to be said, results in a pretty stunning setup from both visual and audio perspectives. Unsurprisingly, I found the output from the Folio's FLAC library to be literally indiscernible from the original CD, just as it should be with a lossless codec.

The Folio will also let you create your own mix CDs. You can create a playlist and burn it to a CD-R, which is handy for playing in the car. However, it's worth noting that the Folio will only burn audio CDs, and you can't simply burn the FLAC files to a disc.

A nice compromise would be for the Folio to rip a high bit rate MP3 file at the same time that the FLAC file is encoded, then the MP3 file could be used for creating CD libraries or even for loading onto a USB key - there are USB ports at the rear of the Folio. While chatting to Pinnacle Audio I was informed that this could well be possible with future firmware upgrades.

Used as the centre of a music system, the Folio has a great deal going for it. In fact sitting here in the office looking directly at the Folio surrounded by the achingly stylish Ferguson Hills, I can't help but think that I'd like to take the whole setup home with me. However, while the Folio definitely gets much of its brief spot on, in some areas it's wide of the mark.

For a start, the wireless controller for the Folio operates via your existing wireless network, so, if you don't have a wireless router in your house, your somewhat out of luck. Second, if you have a particularly large house, even if you do have a wireless router, the Folio's controller may not be able to reach it. And let's not forget that the Folio itself has to be connected to your home network using an Ethernet cable. Considering that one of the key points of the Folio is that you don't need a computer, there's a great deal of reliance on your ability to install and configure a home network.

I personally doubt that too many homes will have their wireless router in the same room as their hi-fi, so you're either going to have to use a wireless bridge or some kind of HomePlug device to get the Folio connected to your network. I can't help but feel that the obvious answer would be to have wireless networking built into the Folio itself, thus negating the need for external network devices and also allowing the controller to connect directly to the Folio, rather than having to take a detour via your router.

Sonos has successfully addressed this very issue by creating hardware that runs its own mesh network, thus allowing the controller to connect directly to the nearest player, rather than having to reach your wireless router. I appreciate that the Folio isn't a multi-room system, and therefore doesn't necessarily need a wireless mesh, but Pinnacle Audio has confirmed that multi-zone functionality is on the roadmap.

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purephase

November 2, 2009, 3:32 pm

Thanks for the review Riyad,





I'm a bit unsure whether the speaker set-up you chose would be used by someone who would actually buy this component - but I do think it provides a good comparison of the product vs. a good computer based system.





I'll probably give this a listen when I audition the Naim hard-disk based systems sometime. Can't see me getting away with this in the living room though because it's hideous! Also - a naff control system does put me off these days.

Orinj

November 2, 2009, 3:34 pm

I can't see why anybody (audiophile or otherwise) would buy this, especially at that price.





Are you able to copy your existing digital music library (assuming it's in a suitable WAV or FLAC format) to this unit? One of the biggest issues I see with all these systems is that they usually expect you to rip your CD collection all over again. That's just not going to happen when like me, you've already spent over 18 months ripping all your CDs to your computer and then gone through the laborious (but mildly interesting) process of encoding to a suitable format, tagging the file correctly (as many online DB services are full of errors) and rating the tracks over the next 18 months.





With a digital output from my computer and wireless control via my iPhone I feed this into any amplifier I choose and it sounds great!

Riyad

November 2, 2009, 5:22 pm

@purephase – you’re right, the Ferguson Hills are not really what the Folio is made for, but Pinnacle Audio did demo the unit to me with their own kit as well. That said, at no point am I complaining about the sound produced by the internal DAC in the Folio.





However, as I point out in the review, if someone is really that bothered about sound quality, they’ll probably invest in their own external DAC, so the quality of the unit used in the Folio will be moot.





Assuming you do have, or intend to purchase an external DAC, then there are many cheaper options available that will give you comparable sound quality – Sonos for one.





Pinnacle Audio will argue that the problem with a Sonos system is that you still need to use a computer and have a NAS appliance, and that the Folio is far easier to implement and use, and to a degree I accept that argument. But if ease of use is paramount, then I feel a better wireless controller is necessary, and considering the price of the system, it really should be a bespoke unit.





@Orinj – I’m with you on this one, but Pinnacle Audio doesn’t see people like us as the target market for the Folio.

morsch

November 2, 2009, 6:27 pm

While a foray into the exciting life of 2000+ quid audio equipment is exciting and all, I'd prefer to see (even more) reviews of devices for, you know, people like us.

Chris

November 2, 2009, 7:43 pm

Not only would you need to be a rich audiophile to buy this, but also a raging technophobe. I can't see the rationale for cutting a PC out of the equation when better, cheaper (and arguably more user friendly) solutions which do involve a PC can be bought for so much less.





I imagine that some audiophiles would argue that any system involving a PC is automatically compromising its sound quality, but those are probably the same people who claim they can tell the difference between CD and FLAC audio.





You can't. It's the same bitstream. Welcome to digital technology, circa 1982...

Orinj

November 2, 2009, 9:38 pm

If they made one of these that accepts 12" vinyl records, removes any crackles and pops, and identifies the record and its tag information automatically then I'd may reconsider it.

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