PINK FAUN STREAMER 2.16X REVIEW PART ONE


As you can read further in the review the Pink Faun is not exactly the newcomer on the scene. They've been around for quite some time on the market and I remember seeing their products at many high-end audio shows and across different systems. 

In recent years they've solely focused on the digital/streaming evergrowing market with quite a success.

Pink Faun streamer 2.16x has well proven this year at the Munich High-End Audio show. The dual chassis 2.16x was feeding with the mighty Aries Cerat full-scale ultra-high-end audio realms system to the level that made a lingering impact for most of the visitors. 


PINK FAUN


Pink

Pink stands for Pink Noise. Pink Noise is a signal or process with a frequency spectrum such that the power spectral density (energy or power per frequency interval) is inversely proportional to the frequency of the signal. Pink noise is the most common signal in biological systems. In pink noise, each octave (halving/doubling in frequency) carries an equal amount of noise energy. The name arises from the pink appearance of visible light with this power spectrum.


Faun

Faun is a mythological half-human, half-goat creature appearing in Ancient Rome. The goat man, more commonly affiliated with the Satyrs of Greek mythology or Fauns of Roman, is a bipedal creature with the legs and tail of a goat and the head, arms and torso of a man and is often depicted with goat's horns and pointed ears. These creatures, in turn, borrowed their appearance from the god Pan of the Greek pantheon. They were a symbol of fertility, and their chieftain was Silenus, a minor deity of Greek mythology. 

WHO’S WHO


Pink Faun is a Dutch-based manufacturer of high-end audio. Over the years they’ve manufactured loudspeakers, CD-players, amplifiers, DAC, cables, etc. Since 2019 their complete focus is on streaming audio. Pink Faun streamer 2.16 is a very good streamer that is gaining more and more attention and popularity with audiophiles. 


“We are true so-called manufacture: Pink Faun does everything in house, the design and production of the products are all done by hand by a small team of specialists. This will guarantee a high level of attention to each product, and high flexibility in customization.”

In 2017 they’ve started with the development of their in-house OCXO clock. The reason was that all current OCXO clocks available on the market today did not meet Pink Faun’s requirements. 

Additionally, they’ve needed very specific frequencies for the 2.16 streamer. A 10MHz clocks with very low phase-noise specifications are widely available, but Pink Faun wanted the extremely low phase-noise characteristic on much higher frequencies like 24 / 25 / 24.576 MHz. 

At the very end of 2018, the Pink Faun ULTRA OCXO was finally ready and exceeded all of the marquee’s expectations. “The result is beyond believed.”

In the streamer 2.16 I under the review, there are 4x the Pink Faun ULTRA OCXO clocks. More about the clocks technology can be found here: ultra-ocxo  and here: 13-clock.

NO SOUND - JUST MUSIC


Jord Groen: “With Pink Faun, we use the slogan: No sound, Just music. In our audiophile world, we often use words to describe sounds with words like warm, dry, rich, neutral, open, detailed, dynamic, soundstage, etc. I received a very nice email from a customer who describes exactly what we mean by No sound, Just music”...


"For a very brief moment (about an hour) I experienced no sound from my headphone system - what I mean by this is that I did not have any words to describe the sound coming from my headphones with the Pink Faun streamer 2.16x as the server. I felt that in that brief period (before I started to fiddle with cables etc.) I achieved a sound that was the closest to real sounding I have come across, nothing added or taken away.


On reflection, the light ball has struck just now and is something to ponder, if you can use words to describe the sound, then the system is not real enough sounding - when the system is real sounding no words can/ be applied to describe the sound, except to say it sounds real.

I have read quite a few reviews by Johnathan Valin of TAS (Whom many people knockdown as a Magico fanboy), he often uses the term real-sounding in his reviews and show reports. I read that and did not fully appreciate or truly sink in the power of those comments.


If the system is achieving no sound and the only words you can use are that it real-sounding - I have come to a personal conclusion that this is the greatest compliment you can give hi-fi gear.
Anyway food for thought.

And guess what Pink Faun’s motto is: no sound, just music (a very interesting choice for a motto).”

PINK FAUN APPROACH TO DIGITAL


In the streamer, 2.16x Pink Faun approaches the digital like analog. In fact, on the Pink Faun website, Jord Groen is boldly stating how digital is non-existing and it’s merely an analog signal (in the perfect situation a square wave) that is interpreted by the transceiver and receiver as a zero or one. “It’s impossible to send an actual zero or one over a cable of PCB, so digital is an analog signal in its purest form a square wave.”

PSU


The linear PSU in the streamer 2.16x is designed in-house and contains three custom transformers providing four main power rails from which all separate voltages for each part of the streamer are regulated. Every part of the streamer has its dedicated regulation from the corresponding power rail. For example, the ATX to the motherboard contains 5 different voltage levels all having their own linear regulation. Pink Faun has designed a full linear PSU and makes no use of any DC to ATX converter. 

The total buffer capacity in each streamer 2.16x is more than 800.000uF

The review sample has up to 20 dedicated linear regulations inside. Even peripherals like the polarity checker have its own regulator to separate if from the rest of the system.

There are two reasons to use three smaller transformers instead of one big transformer. 

First; smaller transformers are more stable under high current swings and have less chance of humming during high current peaks. 

Second; yet most important, each transformer is used for its dedicated area of operation. One for the processor, one for the motherboard and one for the peripherals. A streamer supply has a highly peaking current load, and all currents add up in the transformer core and interact with each other. By separating the main areas of a streamer, in each transformer, the interaction is less which will improve the final sound quality.

Why the implementation of the chokes in power supplies?

Due to its intrinsic properties, a capacitor buffered power supply does not draw a continuous, but a highly peaked current. Each 100Hz capacitor is filled up for the full cycle in only microseconds, depending on the duty cycle of the power supply. The higher the capacitance and the lower the inductance (and Rdc) of the transformer, the lower the duty cycle and the higher these peaks are. These peaks introduce large Hf-noise in power supplies. In Pink Faun power supplies, they're using high inductance power transformers (low field saturation in the core) and pi-filtering to keep the peaks at a minimum and thus Hf noise. The less rubbish in, the less it needs to be filtered later.

Why use separated power rails and not one single mains supply?

All loads, in the end, come together in the source of power. In this source, they interact which results in harmonics and intermodulation noise. The earlier all separated loads are split in the device, the less they interact rendering the lowest initial noise in power supplies. 


Also, by using a lot of smaller separated and regulated supplies, Pink Faun can keep current loops very minimal and local, which also will reduce the spread of EMC inside the device. This is why Pink Faun streamers use separated rails for dedicated areas and a separated regulator for each load. Pink Faun takes extreme care in adding these power supplies all together in the one-star ground. In addition, Pink Faun diligently source the ingoing voltage from star outputs in the power supply resulting in minimal interference and minimal Hf noise and harmonics.

What can be done to achieve the lowest noise possible in the streamer power supply?


Even the best regulators have very poor Hf-characteristics. Regulator noise itself is a factor in the final supply’s output noise, but even of more importance are the noises of the main power, EMC noise (from outside and the device itself) and noise generated by the rectifying and current peaks of the capacitors. All these noise sources have to be minimized to let the regulator perform optimally. Therefore, Pink Faun focuses on special low inductance transformers, Schottky diodes, low ESR-capacitors and plenty of common and differential mode Hf-filtering, separated rails, regulators with localized current loops, star sources, and ground, shielded power planes on the PCBs, cable setup, etc. In the end, the final result is the addition of all efforts taken directly from the main input of the power supply to the connector of the motherboard.

OCXO


Digital without clocks doesn’t exist. So in the streamer, 2.16x Pink Faun gave a lot of attention to clocking. In 2017 they’ve concluded that they’ve reached the limits of what was possible, that was also the time Pink Faun decided to develop their OCXO to make the next step in streaming audio. 


“The Pink Faun ULTRA OCXO is a very unique clock and no other clock on the market today can meet its phase-noise specifications.”

More of Pink Faun‘s ULTRA OCXO can be found here: https://www.pinkfaun.com/shop/clock/67-2916-ultra-ocxo.html#/102-clock_speed-20_mhz 


The motherboard of the streamer 2.16X is equipped with two ULTRA OCXO clocks; the system clock and the BCK. The system clock is needed to synchronize all components/clocks on the motherboard. 


This clock also synchronizes the clock for the CPU, but the CPU clock is only used on the chip (PROCESSOR) itself. Because the CPU needs to perform more operations each time than the motherboard, the clock frequency will be multiplied in the CPU. The advantage of using an OCXO clock on well-chosen key areas in the streamer 2.16X does not apply to better stability but the low phase noise rendering low-jitter, which results in a more stable system making fewer faults in the process and thus lower latency. Both OCXO clocks on the streamers 2.16X motherboard have their low-noise linear regulation and PSU, which results in an even lower noise floor in the whole system increasing the listening experience dramatically.

SOFTWARE


The used OS on the streamer 2.16x is a heavily modified version of Arch Linux (Low Latency / Real-time kernel / Headless). The advantage of using Linux is that you start with nothing and only configure what you really need for audio playback. The Pink Faun streamer 2.16x can work standalone and is fully controllable from a tablet and/or smartphone. The streamer 2.16x runs in a headless mode which means there’s no video driver loaded which results in an even lower noise floor in whole the system, even better, there’s not even graphics hardware in the streamer.


The default playback software is the Roon server. For those who want to up-sample all music files to DSD (maximum DSD rate depends on the DAC), HQPlayer-embedded is installed as well and can be activated at all times. 

Pink Faun has chosen the Arch Linux OS for several reasons. One of the main reasons is HQPlayer-embedded is Linux only. Linux is a very stable and reliable OS that can be modified substantially. 

Also, and most importantly, with Linux incredibly low latency (audio latency and processor latency) can be reached.

During the process of developing the streamer 2.16x Pink Faun has found out that latency is one of the key elements to achieve the really smooth and natural sound; the lower the latency, the better. 

That’s why buffer-size is always turned off, or chosen at the lowest option possible in the playback software. Because the latency is so low in the streamer 2.16 (Audio latency at 192 kHz < 2,67 ms on AMD Ryzen processor and high-quality digital audio interface. Audio latency at 44.1 kHz < 1 ms depending on the hardware configuration. Incredibly low processor latency average 4-6 microseconds on AMD Ryzen processor ) a solid stable processor is needed and therefore Pink Faun has chosen the AMD Ryzen 8-core processor.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOFTWARE AND HARDWARE


The PSU, the hardware, The ULTRA OCXO clock, and the Operating System are all components that need to work smoothly with each other and strengthen each other. 


For example: to reach the extremely low latency not only a very stable and goof-proof configured OS is needed, but also the PSU and clocks are part of the low latency. The PSU is low-noise, the clocks also, this results in fewer mistakes made by the processor because there’s less noise. So the PSU and ULTRA clocks make sure the latency is even lower than with the standard clocks on the motherboard. It’s even measurable when the streamer is equipped with ULTRA OCXOs or not. The load on the processor is around 0.2% with the ULTRA clock, with the standard motherboard clock the load on the processor is around 2%

Also, the 8 CPU cores in the streamer are split in half (4/4). This means the first 4 cores are used for Linux and Roon server and the other 4 cores are completely isolated for music only.

FUTURE PROOF STREAMER


Digital/streaming audio is constantly in development. Therefore Pink Faun ha make sure that streamer can be updated (software) and upgraded (hardware) at all times. 

In the config menu, a very solid update menu is available to update different players that are available with one push, and from here also the kernel can be updated as well as full system updates. 


The motherboard and processor can also relatively be replaced after several years when one wants to keep up with the latest processor and/or motherboard development. 

Almost every year motherboard and processor manufacturers launch new products, this doesn’t mean that you have to upgrade every year. But when you do want to upgrade the new motherboard/processor/etc. swapping is doable within one day.

DIGITAL OUTPUT BOARDS


To connect the streamer to the DAC Pink Faun has developed a range of digital output cards i.e. USB / SPDIF / EASEBU / I2S. 


All output cards are developed and made in-house and are of the highest quality. 

On all output cards, low noise linear regulation is used(with pre and post choke / PI filtering). 

Every component on the card has its own regulation. The standard clock can be upgraded very easy by just “clicking” a better clock on the back of the card. The card automatically switches to the better clock once it placed.

OPERATIONAL


Although Pink Faun streamer 2.16x inner core is highly convoluted, it shouldn't scare away anyone. Even the ones that are lacking the computer savvy. The basic connection and set up are perfomred via computer through the Roon app. For those that want to explroe the submarine depth of fine-tuning, the  2.16x's menu is available through the web interface. 


The 2.16x review sample streamer features four of the Pink Faun ULTRA clocks! Every time the streamer is disconnected from the mains the clocks need to stabilize and this process takes up to 48 hours. So it's best to have 2.16x on all the time, except at the time of exceeded thunderstorms or being away from home for an extended time. 

More about the sonic changes with pre and post 48 hours stabilization in the music section. But, yes... The differences are beyond subtle! 

The streamer is configured as ROON core server and even novice users can connect and set it up easily and instantly straight out the box with the existing ROON account. 

Along with Tidal and Qobuz streaming services, that are activated within the 2.16x, Pink Faun streamer can be configured with up to 8TB SSD internal drives.


As everything is The USB bridge, SPDIF bridge or I2S Bridge outputs are specified at the purchase. Pink Faun is also offering Digital interlink I2S, Digital interlink USB, Digital interlink LAN, Digital interlink AES/EBU, Digital interlink COAX, Digital interlink BNC and LAN Isolator cables to offer the best compatibility and synergy. 


SUM UP


It’s quite mind-boggling how complex the Pink Faun streamer is and how many possibilities, it’s offers when it comes to the performance refinement. 

We’ve come to the stage in the digital audio where every little thing matters. Music servers started to represent the very pinnacle of what’s possible with the digital front end. To reach the premium balancing act within the upper plane digital high-end audio system became of similar if not even more complex propensities as analog. 


Yes, the digital has finally matured and it can deliver more than the impressive scope of the original music material. 

For the review, the Pink Faun streamer 2.16x is mated with the MSB Select, Totaldac d-1 direct, Aries Cerat Kassandra II Sig DAC and Aqua Formula xHD to give it a fair run. 

As you could read throughout the review, the Pink Faun 2.16x streamer is not just another optimized audio computer, but a highly sophisticated device designed from the ground up to offer a seamless integration of software and hardware.


Make no doubt! This is pure, fool blooded audiophile device, designed from the very beginning to deliver the unconditioned upper echelon performance.  2.16x streamer's bare-bones approach to the removal of anything unneeded and high-level tweaking goes beyond the F1's pit-stop logic that many streamer's brands or DIY projects are following. 

2.16x rather focuses on efficiency and the utmost performance that will let you made all the laps at full speed and performance but without needing to stop, adjust and repair all the time. 

 For what it’s serving music-wise Pink Faun 2.16x streamer is already worthy of pointing out with the 2019 Mono and Stereo Upper Echelon Product Award! It's a technical tour de force that will easily captivate the minds and hearts of both digital audio connoisseurs that are in the quest for the state of the art servers, as well as music lovers, that simply want to instantly immerse into the enjoyment of the music. 

In part two I’ll focus on the particular music references that point at the Pink Faun 2.16x streamer’s advantages and what makes it stand out of the crowd.•

Matej Isak

THE PRICE


-  €15.000 (without VAT). The price can be vary due to international freight, local tax and import duties. Contact Pink Faun for the exact quote.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Streamer 2.16x

• Custom-made aluminum rigid frame
• Full passive cooled PSU and processor, an eight heat pipes cooling system for processor, no moving parts 
• Three Low-B, internal- and external shielded power transformers, placed in a 10mm aluminum frame to avoid interference with the rest of the streamer
• Up to 20 linear regulated supplies (depending on hardware configuration) 
• Separate linear supply for the processor, motherboard, SSD’s, OCXO clocks and the digital output card 
• Schottky rectifier diodes, crystalline core choke Pi-filters 
• Low ESR 105 degree Nichicon capacitors, the total buffer capacity is more than 800.000uF 
• Star-grounding- and star-power supply design 
• Separate powered OCXO clock for the system clock 
• Separate powered OCXO clock for motherboard BCK
• Separate powered OCXO clock for every digital output card 
• Designed and hand build in The Netherlands    
 
Hardware 

• Full size ATX motherboard with optimized BIOS settings. 
• 8-core processor, passive cooled with eight heat pipes cooling system, no moving parts inside 
• Low-latency DDR4 memory 
• Samsung Pro SSD (MLC) for operating system and playback software, additional music storage up to 8TB SSD   
 
Software 

• Custom Arch Linux ultra-low latency real-time kernel operating system 
• Roon Core server 
• HQPlayer high quality bit-perfect multichannel audio player (PCM en DSD) 
• Tidal high-res streaming (Tidal subscription not included) 
• Qobuz high-res streaming (Qobuz subscription not included) 
• Extremely low processor and audio Latency 
• Including professional remote support 

CONTACT


Pink Faun High-End audio
Van Deventerstraat 10
3911KH Rhenen (UT)
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0) 85 112 4375
WhatsApp: +31 (0) 628455761