That’s right—the Cocktail Audio X45Pro packs a lot of digital source stuff and preamp functionality into a single chassis acting as streamer, server, CD player/ripper, DAC, FM tuner, and MM Phono Stage which helps explain its 127-page manual.
Using the many buttoned remote (50 in total), you can access a near dizzying array of setup, function, and play back options. While the X45Pro is Roon Ready, and I am certainly very happy about that, you can use the remote to connect to Tidal, Qobuz, and Deezer, access Internet Radio, play or rip CDs, listen to FM or DAB radio, listen to records, record from radio (in high-res), and more. There are a near endless number of customization options from how to display your music on its 7” TFT color screen, to changing fonts, and more. Lots more.
If I went into any amount of detail on everything the X45Pro allows a user to do, a War and Peace-sized tome would ensue. There are digital inputs and outputs (which I didn’t use), a set of RCA analog inputs (which I didn’t use), a headphone jack (which I didn’t use), and even a BNC input for an antennae (which I didn’t use). If you really want to know about everything this everything device can do, I recommend a thorough dig through the X45Pro’s extensive manual. But I will point out that while the manual says the MM Phono input’s sensitivity is controllable 3.75~15mVrms (default 7.5mVrms), I could not figure out to access this option. Yes I read and searched the manual to no end.
Ripping and Playing CDs
The review came with just over 1TB of internal storage but owners can opt to pack up to an 8TB HDD or SSD drive into the rear mounted drive bay. Meta data is pulled from Gracenote and I ripped one CD, The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland, which took about 10 minutes. For some reason, the album cover art was not available but a manual walk through the editing process using the remote allowed me to pick the art I wanted to attach to the album.
After inserting a CD, the unit took about 10 seconds, actual time depends on the length of the CD, to display the CD’s track info, ready for play. I played a number of CDs including Electric Ladyland and the X45Pro did not retrieve the album cover art for any of them. While there may be a menu setting to solve this problem, I couldn’t find it and I have to say that one drawback of an Everything player is getting everything to work without a hitch. Missing album cover art brings me back to my early days of computer audio and WAV files, days I’m very happy to have as a very distant memory.
I know some people believe that playing CDs or files from local storage (or a NAS, USB thumb drive, or SDHC) sounds better than streaming and they may be right in their particular system context. It is my experience that when care is taken in our network and streaming setup/system, any differences in sound quality become immaterial. Of course there’s also the whole own versus rent issue, which is a personal matter. I will share that I’ve whittled down my NAS-based library over the years because it started out as “I need everything!” TB-busting size to “Why the hell do I have that!” As soon as lossless streaming hit the scene, the idea that I was going to build my own mega-terabyte library with everything kinda fizzled. That’s not to say I stopped buying music, and I have to wonder how many people with over 10TB of music have actually bought it all, but these days I buy most of my music from Bandcamp on vinyl which also gets me the free lossless download (complete with meta data) at no extra cost. Sometimes it takes weeks for a record to arrive in the mail, but the download-to-play time takes about 4 minutes all in.
That being said, using the X45Pro to rip CDs to internal or external storage is a useful feature as long as the process, including meta data, isn’t laborious.
Streaming with Roon
I used the X45Pro as Roon Ready streamer and DAC sending its analog output to the Leben CS600’s PreAmp input, which bypasses everything but the Leben’s volume control, over a length of AudioQuest Thunderbird interconnects. I also maxed out the CS600’s volume and used the X45Pro’s internal volume control. I will note that the X45Pro uses the ESS SABRE PRO ES9038PRO DAC chip for D/A conversion.
Novatron, Cocktail Audio’s parent company, offers an IOS app called Music X NEO, which I downloaded and gave a brief look, but it only offers playback of internally stored or attached music. For users who plan to largely rely on the Cocktail Audio’s internal storage, this app works just fine. But for me, someone who regularly listens to NAS-based music mixed and mingled with tunes from Tidal and Qobuz (all willy-nilly), Roon is my preferred ride.
Oliver Sim’s first solo outing Hideous Bastard offers moments of exquisite beauty, as you might expect considering his history as part of the xx. Sim’s vocal range is nearly Orbison-like but decidedly sweeter, and on opener “Hideous” Sim’s shares, “Radical honesty/Might set me free/If it makes me hideous/Been living with HIV/Since seventeen/Am I hideous?” In today’s climate that’s unfortunately still a relevant question to ask, with social mores and minds reverting back to darker ages. But this is, overall, beautiful music and the X45Pro did a nice job of conveying the various voices at work on Hideous Bastard. The X45Pro’s sound is all about refinement, resolution, and nuance offering a fleet of foot sound that makes music dance with a light step.
Jon Collin & Demdike Stare’s Sketches Of Everything is broken down blues, the kind of skeletal remains of the blues that Loren Mazzacane Connors does so well, with seemingly simple guitar lines twisting in and out of more complex and dangerous sounding sounds. This is also a vast sounding record, as if recorded in a cave, with reverb trailing off into dark corners and the X45Pro proved to be a champ at holding onto every note and sound until it faded off in the distance to silence. That said, when compared to the Barn-resident totaldac d1-unity (review)/Auralic ARIES G1.1 combo (review) that comes in at about $12.8k, the X45Pro sounds a bit lightweight and tonally less developed.
Meg Baird’s Furling, released in January on Drag City, remains a favorite for its gentle, slow-paced beauty. Baird vocals are the focus here, backed by piano, guitar, bass and drums with harpist Mary Lattimore joining for one track. The X45Pro really shined here, laying out each player, every element in relief with a refined clarity. The X45Pro is very nimble, having no problem digging into the finer details of any music you send its way.
The MM Phono stage built into the X45Pro made PJ Harvey sound lean but still mean. To Bring You My Love sounded thinner than it does through the Manley Chinook SE phono stage (review), not as rich and full figured. The X45Pro’s sound is on the finely detailed side even with vinyl, taking care to reproduce sonic minutiae in favor of the richer tonal palette and weightier sound of the Chinook. To be fair, the Manley costs $3199 and its only job is to amplify and de-RIAA the signal coming off a record player, which is does extremely well.
While we’re on this topic, doing one thing really well, there’s a reason why separates can sound better than integrates and one big reason is noise, mostly internal. With an almost everything-in-one device like the X45Pro, you’ve got a lot of things inside that emit noise (screen, DAC, computer), noise that can be harmful to things like the delicate signal coming from a turntable. While some people think of noise in hifi as meaning something you can hear through your speakers, internal noise can mix and mingle with the music signal effecting how it sounds. They become one. Designing a one-box Streamer/DAC/CD Player/Ripper/Server/Tuner/Preamp that completely isolates each functional part from the noise generated by the others would be no mean feat.
Cocktail Audio address this potential issue when talking about the X45Pro’s design: To minimize electrical and idle noises, power source circuit for digital and analogue parts is designed isolatedly, and Toroidal Transformer and SMPS are completely shielded with aluminum.
I wish I had a price and functional equivalent to compare the X45Pro to but I don’t—its list of features is way longer than any all-in-one I’ve reviewed thus far. So I’ve been hard on the X45Pro’s sound, comparing it to separates costing many times its price to put things in ultimate performance perspective. But prospective X45Pro buyers are not, according to my best guess, the same kind of buyer that will be interested in the time, effort, and capital needed to shop around for a bunch of pieces that will add up to the Cocktail Audio’s full features. I’d also wager that these buyers are willing to give up ultimate performance for the convenience a one box solution has to offer.
The Cocktail Audio X45Pro is a many (many) function device, rolling up a server, streamer, DAC, tuner, CD player/ripper, MM phono stage, and preamplifier in one box. For the right buyer, it can be a one and done solution taking care of all your digital needs (and then some), vinyl, and even an additional line level analog source (if there’s anything left!) while offering a finely detailed and nuanced way with any music you send its way.
US Importer’s Comment
Nice one and spot on. I agree functionality can be complex at first. I find the Neo X Music app on my MacBook solves all the issues, the iPad or iPhone versions are less inclusive. I can easily ride the phono stage gain via the app, set up home theater bypass via the app etc. I can easily choose art work for the occasional CD that it does not tag, using Amazon, Gracenote, Google, or Bing as my source (again super flexible). I find the record feature for either the phono or radio, do it hear Saturday afternoon FM MET opera, a great exclusive benefit with the 24/96 resolution I chose, as being amazing, to add to my library and replay at will.
As you pointed out a -Remote Controlled Preamp-DAC PCM/DSD-Thumb Drive Player-FM Radio-CD Player-CD Ripper-DAB Radio-MM Phono Stage-Hard drive Hi-Res Recorder-Roon Endpoint-Tidal-Qobuz-Internet Radio-Air Play-Headphone Amp- Swiss Army knife audio kit cannot be found elsewhere! Buy all that functionality separately what’s your cost?
Cocktail Audio X45 Pro – duh no brainer.
Thank you Michael
Robin Wyatt, Robyatt Audio
Cocktail Audio X45Pro
Manufacturer’s Website: Cocktail Audio
US Importer Website: Robyatt Audio
|Host CPU & Memory
|CPU : Quad Core ARM Cortex A9 running at 1.0GHz
|Main Memory : DDR-1066 1GByte
|NAND Flash 8GByte
|CD, CD-DA, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R/RW
|7.0″ TFT LCD(1,024 x 600pixels)(* able to connect to ext. screen via HDMI out)
|Key & Jog(Volume/Scroll), IR Remote Control, Customized Remote App for iOS and Android devices, Web Interface
(SABRE Flagship ES9038PRO DAC)
|XLR, Dynamic Range: 137dB (Max 6.5Vrms, Stereo) THD +N: 0.0003%
|RCA, Dynamic Range: 137dB (Max 2Vrms, Stereo) THD +N: 0.0003%
|6.35mm Jack, 100mW+100mW@1Khz, 600ohm, 0.006% THD
|COAXIAL x 1
|S/PDIF 75ohm RCA, Sample rate: up to 24bit/192KHz
|TOSLINK x 1
|S/PDIF, Sample rate: up to 24bit/192KHz
|AES/EBU/XRL x 1
|110ohm, Sample rate: up to 24bit/192KHz
|USB Audio x 1
|USB Audio Class 2.0 Output
|HDMI Out x 1
|HDMI Audio Out(*Shared with HDMI Out for external screen)
|LINE In x 1
|L&R RCA at the rear, default 2Vrms(controllable 1~4Vrms)
|Aux In x 1
|3.5mm Phone Jack on the front, default 1Vrms(controllable 0.5~2Vrms)
|Phono In x 1
|MM Input, default 7.5mVrms(controllable 3.75~15mVrms)
|COAXIAL x 1
|Sample Rate: up to 24bit/192Khz
|TOSLINK x 1
|Sample Rate: up to 24bit/192Khz
|AES/EBU XLR x 1
|Sample Rate: up to 24bit/192Khz
|USB Audio Input
|USB B type connector, USB Audio Class 2.0 input
(support up to PCM 768Khz/32Bit, DSD Native 512, and MQA file)
|2.5″ SATA, up to 2TB
|* Bigger capacity of storage will be supported by firmware update when available in the market
|3.5″ SATA, up to 8TB
|2.5″ SATA, up to 2TB
|Selectable for DAB/DAB+ or FM Radio
|USB3.0(5V/1A) x 2 at rear
USB2.0(5V/1A) x 1 at front
|Giga Fast Ethernet(10/100/1000Mbs)
|※ 802.11b/g/n WiFi USB dongle(Option)
|Connect to external screen(* Shared with HDMI Audio Out)
|MQA, PCM 768Khz/32Bit, DSD(DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, *DSD512), DXD(24Bit/352.8KHz), HD WAV(24Bit/192KHz), HD FLAC(24Bit/192KHz), APE/CUE, WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, AIF, AAC, M4A, MP3, WMA, CAF, Ogg Vorbis, PCM, M3U, PLS, etc
(* Note : DSD512 is supported by Analog Out only)
|UPnP(DLNA) Server/Client/Media Renderer, Samba Server/Client, FTP Server, Web Server, etc
|Online Music Services
|TIDAL, TIDAL MQA, Deezer, Qobuz, Napster, Spotify Connect
(* Note: Amazon Music will be available via firmware update)
|Supported OSD languages
|English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Korean,(To be added by request)
|Isolated Power management
|For audio signal management
|Toroidal & SMPS are shielded to minimize electrical noise
|70W internal SMPS
|For digital CPU management
|12V Trigger Out
|Max 200mA, 12V
|AC 220V – 240V, 50/60Hz
|AC 110V – 120V, 50/60Hz
|Whole chassis is based on CNC-machined high quality aluminum
|440mm(W) x 329mm(D) x 118mm(H)
|440mm(W) x 329mm(D) x 130mm(H)
|13.2Kg (Device only without accessory and carton box)
|CE, FCC, EMI, etc