I know I have not been anywhere near as prompt as usual when it comes to reviewing turnarounds since I have moved but I have been far the biggest offender to my two most used products over the last 6 months. Those two products would be Astell & Kern’s Kann (a review coming soon I promise) and Fidelizer’s Nimitra. Today we will indeed review the latter! I should apologize to Keetakawee and the folks at Fidelizer because this has been and will continue to be a staple part of my main listening system. Paired with Roon, my totaldac d1-seven, Questyle CMA800R monos and Sennheiser HD800s/Audeze LCD-MX4, I have surely one of the most beautiful headphone systems in the world to enjoy when it is just too hot to go outside in Oman (I know, first world problem huh). Without Nimitra my listening sessions would not have been near as amazing! So I will start with a humble apology and my honest gratitude.
I have had some very interesting dialogue with Keetakawee and about how a big change is due in our beloved industry. Some old schoolers still remain in the belief that a music source (server) should not be like/be a computer and they would never spend big money on what they understand as simply being a customized computer. They think they can only spend money on CD players not knowing they can get better sound from a much cheaper computer-based server or even better yet, software for their computer such as what Fidelizer offer. The reality is they will spend $10,000 on cables but not $500 or even $99 on software. I think audiophiles are generally thick skinned with this sort of stuff, I have heard stories about customers who have shelled out £15,000 on cartridges only to not pay the £300 for calibration. It is sad. As we touched on the subject of analogue he preached that his products are something analogue lovers can appreciate! I mean the guy may be a purist but he also sounds like a nutter, tearing apart his $30,000 EMM Labs DCC2 SE to mod it and take it to yet another level.
Fidelizer makes three products, the first is their computer software of the same name coming in plus ($40) and pro ($70) options. They then have Nimitra, their $1395 computer audio server and finally Nikola, a linear power supply for sources and Nimitra alike. It costs $495 so bundled with Nimitra you will be set back $1890, I will be reviewing the combo. Fidelizer Audio also has a portable section where they make ROMs for DAPs as well as offer mods for some popular models, worth looking into!
Nimitra embodies the boutique lifestyle with just 4 units being made a week. The owner also works a full-time job with this being a passion/hobby on the side (not to say you won’t get his full attention). Just know these are selling quicker than they are made, so it won’t be the case of purchasing and having one leave the factory later that day. You may have a small but manageable wait.
At the base, Nimitra is a Windows 10 computer. It then cuts everything that is not related to audio from the operating system, because let’s face it, we don’t need it. With their 10 years in the industry, Fidelizer has summarized 3 main things should be achieved with a computer server, to which they of course follow. The first is to have no moving parts because we don’t want any vibrations. Second is low power consumption because of course that will reduce circuit pollution and finally resonance control for the chassis. The last one is something that is pretty much a followed principle for any audio product, so why change it for the first part of your chain? To achieve these principles they use SSD storage for the OS and it is of course fanless. They have then used an Intel J1900 2.0GHz Quad Core CPU that strikes the perfect balance between power and consumption and decided Kingston DDR3L for RAM in opposed to DDR3 because they’d rather lower voltage than lower CL. The actual construction is very basic. It forgoes branding and flair for suitability to task. It is made from a 3.5mm aluminium alloy frame (it is light at 1.8kg) and with only three pieces there is less frequency shift. That is further promoted by using audio grade feet. It is vented on the side for heat control and that is basically the unit in a nutshell. It is a no frills unit and it gets the job done. I think the practicality shouldn’t be overlooked for fancier designs with a big screen and garish materials. In fact a whole lot of you may be wondering where the screen is but installing one adds so much noise. That’s why we have a smartphone because we can control literally everything from there, or your tablet if you prefer!
It’s How You Use It
Devices like this are a huge pain to review because they can be used in a million and one ways. So instead of spending a year of my life trying this in every way imaginable, I instead have used it how best fits me. First of all, what are your options for the Nimitra? Well, you could use it as a music server, library server or network player. These three fancy titles basically are interchangeable by how you plan on getting your music and where you plan on sending your music. The Nimitra has no onboard memory so you have two options for sourcing music, plugging in a USB drive or connecting it via ethernet to network attached storage (NAS). You then can choose between sending your music directly to a USB DAC, or if you would like, send the music over the net, to your choice of server, letting this act as a network drive or library. I think this would be wasted going to another server and think it is best utilized going directly to a USB DAC, so then it is just a matter of how you get the tracks, I opt to connect one of my USB hard drives, that’s 4TB of music that then goes straight to my totaldac d1-seven… NICE!
For connectivity you have six USB ports, five of which are 2.0 and a final one that is 3.0. Four are around the back and 2 mounts the side. We then have an HDMI, VGA, Ethernet ports and a DC input. Finally, we have a standard computer coloured headphone and mic jack, I haven’t touched them. You can attach included antennas if you want to bypass ethernet but for this sort of thing I would always stick to a wired connection, I use totaldac’s ethernet cable!
Once you have decided how you will insert it into your current system, the next decision is one of control. The most traditional method would be a UPnP control software for whatever platform you plan to use. I tried Linn Kazoo on my Mac which is free and available for any OS, it worked just fine. That being said as you already know I am a big fan of Roon and with this being both Roon Ready and with an option to be a setup Roon Endpoint, I have taken advantage of this. This means the Nimitra has become my Roon Core and I can control my Core from my iMac, my OnePlus Two phone and output music stored on the core via my phone, DACs connected to my iMac and of course, DACs connected to the Nimitra. I could have left my iMac as my Roon Core and with the Nimitra being Roon Ready streamed through it to my DAC using storage within my iMac. This is an area where Fidelizers first-rate customer support comes in as they will actually go onto customers Nimitras remotely to make sure that any drivers are installed etc for what DAC you use or to reconfigure if you decide down the line you would like use this with Roon.
I love Roon, it functions amazingly and is my favourite interface of any music player I have yet used. That being said recently when reviewing the latest Audeze headphones I was getting amazing results with some Roon DSP presets for Audeze. However, I was getting a lot of clipping with all files and straight up dropouts with DSD. I am not sure if this was to a lack of processing power on the Nimitra? When using Nimitra simply as a Library Server and my phone to playback the audio there was no clipping with the same DSP settings. That was the only time I found a crack in the playback.
What should be said about all this though is just the ease of use. It doesn’t matter how you use it, how you control it, what you put behind or in front of it… you will be ready to go almost immediately. You need no computing skills, just a smartphone and an ethernet cable and you are good to go. Products I have reviewed in the past such as BMC’s PureMedia were fantastic and elaborate but it was such a pain setting up having to connect a monitor, keyboard and mouse and repeating that when you wanted one setting change. It is also super fast as there isn’t much else going on. The device takes a little while to boot up but once that is done, there is not a single delay for any action you make, mainly playing music. For those who don’t want a complication by adding a new device, this is the one for you, it is discreet, simple and will sit in the background working its magic.
Turn the page for more….