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Pinnacle Audio Folio - Pinnacle Audio Folio

By Riyad Emeran



Our Score:


As well as needing a network connection to communicate with the controller, the Folio also reaches out to the Internet to pull down track details and cover art for each CD that you rip. The device will also check for updates regularly, and if there is a new firmware available, it will download and apply it overnight.

Unfortunately, the wireless controller is somewhat disappointing. To be fair, it does everything I'd want it to, but it just doesn't do it very well. Rather than design and manufacture its own controller, Pinnacle Audio has chosen to use a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet. The Folio app gives you most of the functionality you'd want, like being able to search/browse by artist, album, playlist etc. but the experience is hampered by inconsistent navigation methods and woefully sluggish response.

For instance, when I'm browsing by artist I can't swipe the screen up and down to scroll, instead I have to press up and down arrows at the side. However, once I select and artist and album, I then no longer have arrows to press and instead have to swipe the screen up and down to scroll. But unfortunately, since Nokia tablets employ resistive rather than capacitive screens, it's not that easy to swipe and scroll smoothly - I sometimes found myself having to take out the stylus and use the scroll bar instead. And when you do find the track or album that you wish to select, the controller can take an age to respond.

I can understand why Pinnacle Audio has chosen to use a third party device as its controller, after all the cost of designing and manufacturing its own wireless remote would be significant to say the least. However, when you compare the Folio's controller to the latest Sonos CR200 touch-screen controller, it looks and feels like an antique.

The guys at Pinnacle Audio did tell me that the decision to use the Nokia tablet wasn't purely to do with cost, since it also meant that if a better third party solution came along, they could switch to that, and I can see some merit in that argument. That said, even taking the Sonos CR200 out of the equation, the Sonos iPhone app is also infinitely slicker and more user friendly than the Folio's controller solution. Perhaps an iPhone app and a bundled iPod touch would be a better idea.

It's clear that Pinnacle Audio is aiming the Folio at the audiophile market when you look at the pricing. The entry level Folio with two 250GB hard disks installed has an RRP of £2,399, while 500GB and 750GB configurations will cost you £2,499 and £2,799 respectively.

I have to say that the £400 cost increase from 250GB drives to 750GB drives is somewhat shocking when you consider that 1TB drives can be had for less than £60 each. Unfortunately you can't buy a Folio without disks installed and fit your own, but I was told that the cost differential for higher capacity options would be looked at.

On the plus side, anyone who orders a Folio before the end of March 2010 will get a 15 per cent discount on their purchase. But even with the discount, this is still a very expensive digital music solution.


There's a lot to like about the Folio, but it ultimately lacks the polish that its high price demands. The biggest let down is the controller, which can be both unintuitive and unresponsive, ultimately making it frustrating to use. The need for the controller to link to your wireless router is also slightly disappointing, as is the Folio's lack of built-in wireless functionality.

The sound quality via the Folio's internal DAC is very impressive, but it's worth remembering that if you buy a good external DAC then any media streamer with a digital output can sound just as good. Plus every digital source you have could benefit.

The simplicity of getting your music onto the Folio is a big draw, and If that is paramount to you, and you have deep enough pockets, then it could be worth considering. For me though, as it stands, it doesn't feel like the finished article and better solutions can be had for far less cash.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Value 5
  • Usability 5
  • Features 6


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.


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!


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.


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.


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...


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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