Lode LA4 High Res Audio music server review

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posted on Tuesday, 14th June 2016 by David Slater

Multi-room  Streaming  High Res Audio 

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Hi-Res Audio and lossless streaming are two buzz words that are being thrown around the install community. For a number of years now we have just been putting up with average MP3 quality, but not any more. Spotify, Tidal and MQA are moving music into studio grade audio. With this in mind, I took delivery of the LODE LA4 multi room audio streamer. Is this the audio upgrade CI has been waiting for?

Lode LA4 audio music server: Design
The Lode LA4 is a 1U rack mountable black box. It has been designed to stream Hi-Res Audio to four different locations. On the rear of the unit there are four analogue phono outputs and one network port, and a silver reset button -  that’s it. The unit does not have any noisy fans, as the outer skin of milled brushed aluminium acts as a heat sink.

Front & Back

Lode LA4 audio music server: Installation and setup
Setting up the system is super simple; just download from Lode’s site an admin utility that when fired up finds the LA4 on your network. Once identified the setup is completed in a web browser. There are seven tabs, the first being a status page. The details covered on this page include what version of software you are using, MAC address, where in the world the unit is located and the zone configuration and naming.

The Next tab is Networking where you can setup either DHCP or static IP addresses. There is a UDP unicast option as well as Multi cast for choosing the Lodenet transport protocol; also on this page is a system boot delay which is very handy if you have a switch on the network that takes time to reboot after a power outage.

With all the network and naming settings complete it’s then time to add or enable music services. Out of the box, you have the following on offer: TuneIn radio, Tidal, Airplay, Spotify, Itunes library, SoundCloud and hotelradio.fm. Once a service is added all you need to do is provide your username and password for the service and you are ready to stream.

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LA4 Rear Angle

The LodeNet platform is designed as a UDP Unicast platform and provides 64 room capability. It is designed to run on a normal network without the need for tricky set-up. It will even work on a BT Homehub! The Multicast part is used if you want to go to 256 rooms and does then require specific network products and additional set-up.

The LA4 does not have on-board amplification (there’s an upgrade coming soon) so you will need to add a multi room amplifier. In the software you have options to fix volume and adjust trim. The last two tabs on the setup page allow for system maintenance and diagnostics, which can be very helpful if you have traffic problems on your network.

Once the system is set up, it’s time to download the front end control. This can be done on multiple platforms. For iPad it’s as simple as going to an Apple store and downloading, if you want your desktop to control the system, you can download Windows or OSX versions from the download section of Lode’s website. 

Lode LA4 audio music server: Performance and integration
One of the reasons I would recommend this product is the interface. It’s well designed and looks very slick. I was delighted to see how fast the tracks load and play, there’s no buffering or delay. The Tidal page loaded in nanoseconds… all your favourite navigation and music queues are present. On the left hand side of the window you have all four rooms located for easy grouping.

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So how does it work with third part controllers? Well, we hooked the system to a resident control4 system, using a driver written by Janus Technologies. This driver is FOC and is easy to load into your Control4 program. The system is controlled via IP, with a good interface on the control4 touchscreens. If you require more zones the LA4 can be stacked to provide you with up to 64 zones. We used Control4for this audition, but many other platforms are compatible, including AMX, Crestron and RTI, URC, Elan. Lode says it also has some upgrades coming for the product, including digital outputs, one zone unit Lline inputs, built in amplification and audio baluns.

Lode LA4 audio music server: Verdict
Admittedly, this unit is not cheap but I think it’s worth every penny. The LA4 wins stars for speed of delivery, a well-designed interface and painless setup. Be aware the unit does run warm, so take care where to install in the rack.

The Lode LA4 audio music server is available now
Retail price: £2,700
For more visit www.lodeaudio.com.

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a
popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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