I had not heard of Cocktail Audio before beginning work on this review, but my initial research into its X10 system piqued my interest. Cocktail Audio appears to be a subsidiary of Novatron, a Korean audio component company. The X10 system I reviewed was equipped with an internal 2TB hard drive and retails at $580. An extra $80 doubles the capacity to four terabytes. For reference, a 2TB drive will hold about 2,600 CDs stored in the uncompressed WAV format and approximately 30,000 CDs when compressed to 128k MP3 files.
Cocktail Audio describes the X10 as a HiFi Component & Music Streamer. CD Audio, LLC, the United States distributor, states that the X10 is "The Next Generation in CD Ripping." Both descriptions are accurate but do not fully describe the X10's capabilities. The X10 is a network audio player that has a slot-loading compact disc drive, an internal hard drive, and a 30-watt-per-channel stereo amplifier. All you have to add is a pair of speakers (it is designed for eight-ohm speakers), and you've got a complete digital music system that can play CDs, as well as locally stored music and network-streamed music files and Internet radio. That's a lot of functionality provided by the X10 for its $580 price point.
The price is not the only thing that is small about the X10. The device is also diminutive in size, measuring roughly seven inches wide, six inches deep, and four inches high. A 3.5-inch color LCD screen below the CD-loading slot dominates the glossy black front panel. A row of eight buttons on the top of the unit provides basic control functions, but the full-functioned remote is needed for full access to the X10's controls. Build quality seems to be a step above the mass-market mid-fi units that populate the big-box stores. The chassis' sides and top are made out of a fairly attractive matte-black plastic with silk-screened labeling on the top. The back panel is densely populated with numerous connectors, including spring-loaded speaker connections, two USB Type A and one USB Type B port, Ethernet, a Toslink audio output, and headphone and eighth-inch stereo jacks for line in and out. The rest of the small back panel is occupied by a power input for a cord that contains an inline power supply, a power switch, and a fan vent.
The included remote control is a fairly conventionally styled plastic unit with directional cursor buttons in the center. The buttons are small and not backlit, but they are clearly labeled. With regular use, it became apparent to me that their functionality had been well thought out.
CDs can be ripped into any of several formats chosen by the user. Those looking for maximum capacity can choose low-resolution MP3 files. Personally, I opted for FLAC, which offers full resolution with some space saving. The X10 system can handle audio files in the following formats: MP3, FLAC, WAV, WMA, M4A, AAC, OGG, PCM, M3U, and PLS, with resolutions up to 24-bit/96-kHz. The X10 can be connected to your network via the Ethernet port mentioned above or via an included WiFi antenna that plugs into one of the Type A USB ports. When connected to a network, the X10 can access Internet radio and the Simfy music streaming service (but not Spotify or Pandora), play music files from other servers on the network, or act as a server to other devices such as Sonos. The X10 is Samba- and UPnP-capable for network audio playback. A Web interface allows for control and editing of audio files and playlists when the X10 is connected to a network. Do not despair if you do cannot or simply do not want to connect the X10 to a network, as the USB ports allow for the import and export of audio files via external USB drives. The X10 even comes with the FreeDB database on CD (updates available) that can be loaded onto the unit so that the metadata can be accessed for CDs being ripped without an Internet connection.
In line with the X10's clock radio size, it has sleep and alarm functions, and the front display can even be configured to be an easily read clock.
The X10 is pretty much a standalone system, so my physical connections were limited to the speakers. I connected an Orb Audio Classic One speaker system. This system features a pair of passive, softball-sized spherical satellite speakers and a powered subwoofer. I used the included WiFi dongle to connect to my network and obtain Internet access, but you can easily use an Ethernet cable if you prefer.
The X10 comes with a setup wizard and a quick start guide that got me to ripping CDs onto the internal hard drive in just a few minutes. As I mentioned above, I selected the FLAC format for my ripped audio files.
When I added the X10 to my network, I inadvertently connected it to a secured portion of the network that had Internet access but could not access my main server. This made it frustrating to try to play music off my server: I could see that the X10 was on the network, but it could not access my server. Once I recognized the problem, which was no fault of the X10's, the fix was quick.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...