Published On: February 13, 2017

ELAC DS-S101-G Discovery Music Server Reviewed

Published On: February 13, 2017
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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ELAC DS-S101-G Discovery Music Server Reviewed

Steven Stone auditions the DS-S101-G Discovery Music Server from ELAC, which can unite your personal music files with streaming options like TIDAL and uses the Roon Essentials control interface.

ELAC DS-S101-G Discovery Music Server Reviewed

  • Steven Stone is the former editor of He a longtime audiophile and home theater writer, as well as a musician and recording engineer. Steven has written for publications like Stereophile, as well as,, and The Absolute Sound.
    Steven is plays guitar, mandolin, and Ashbory bass and is a collector of fine musical instruments.

ELAC-DMS-225x138.jpgThere was a time, not too long ago, when wireless music servers were essentially the province of computer geeks. While the inner workings of most music servers are still complex environments that only a computer nerd could love, the products have gotten much more user-friendly and affordable. Nowadays, a consumer has options ranging from under-$50 streamers to ultra-high-end units costing up into five figures. But how much do you need to spend to get a high-performance player that's robust, easy to use, and does not require a degree in computer science to set up?

The answer, according to ELAC, is $1,099--that's the MSRP of the DS-S101-G Discovery Music Server. This digital music streamer supports playback of files stored on both NAS and USB drives; AirPlay is built in, as are TIDAL and Internet radio streaming. It supports analog and digital output, with the option to send the same or different streams to multiple zones.

ELAC has partnered with Roon to supply the user interface. What is Roon? It's a software app for music playback that has a far richer and more complex tagging, identification, and interface than other playback applications. It also allows user to access multiple libraries, both online and on their network attached storage devices, and play them back over Roon Ready devices. Roon is a two-part system. Part one is called Roon Core, which manages your music collection from many sources and builds an interconnected digital library using enhanced information from Roon. The core can be your Mac or Windows PC or a server like the DS-S101-G. The second part is the Control App, which can run on Windows, OS X, Android, and Apple iOS devices. Roon developed the control software for all platforms out of a single code-base. The control infrastructure is designed to work identically whether you are sitting in front of a computer running a Roon Core or you are using another device on your network.

A growing number of audio players are now Roon Ready, meaning that the software can be added so that you can use Roon as your primary interface. Roon carries its own subscription cost ($119 per year or $499 lifetime). In this case, however, the DS-S101-G includes a subscription to Roon Essentials, a slightly less featured version of Roon.

So, is this diminutive rectangular box the future of high-performance digital and streaming audio? Let's see.

ELAC-DMS-rear.jpgThe Hookup
The DS-S101-G supports two separate and independent analog outputs that can play different program sources. It also has two digital outputs (Toslink and SPDIF) that support up to 24/192 PCM. Inputs consist of an Ethernet port and a USB connection for an external storage device. Digital formats supported include WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, OGG, MP3, and AAC--with 24/192 support for WAV, AIFF, FLAC, and ALAC files. DSD playback is not supported (that's one of the limitations of the less-featured Roon Essentials).

There's no control surface or user interface located on the server itself. You must control all functions using the Roon Essentials Control App for Android (4.4 or higher), iOS (iPhone 5s and later), OSX (10.8 or higher), or Windows (7, 8, or 10). When I received the product, I quickly realized that my iPhone 5 would not download the app because it was not 64-bit capable. My Android-based Fire HD 8 pad wouldn't load the app for the same reason. I was able to run the app using a loaner iPad and a Sony Experia tablet with no serious issues (regularly upon activation, the iPad would flash the error message of "no connection found" for several seconds before connecting successfully). I could also control the ELAC server using the Roon app on my MacBook Pro desktop and MacBook Pro laptop, but these were not as convenient as using a tablet or phone since they are located in different parts of the house.

After getting the Roon Essentials Control App up and running, I had several options to populate the ELAC server with music. I added my TIDAL subscription information, and the ELAC found my account quickly without incident. I also added the primary music folders on my QNAP NAS drive (you will need to have Twonky Media app active on your NAS). When I added new files to either my TIDAL favorite albums or my NAS, the Roon Essentials Control App showed them, up to a point. The ELAC/Roon configuration supports 30,000 individual music files in its database. After a few weeks, I had loaded more than 30,000 files, so the system could not add new music unless I deleted other files. (The 30,000-file limit is another limitation of Roon Essentials.)


Unfortunately, among the new files I wanted to add were many new MQA Mastered TIDAL releases, so I have no way of telling if the ELAC server will support MQA Mastered TIDAL files. Also, the current version of the Roon app does not show MQA masters among the album selection options, as does the just-released desktop TIDAL app--so, even if I had space to add the files to the ELAC's library, I could not do it through the ELAC's Roon Essentials Control App as currently configured. Hopefully a future firmware update will eliminate this issue.


The ELAC server also has options for adding Internet radio stations, although the current software is at "beta" level--it has no listings of its own but requires you to manually add the URL for the stations you want. This is not as convenient as other apps that include station lists, like iHeartRadio.

One feature I found especially useful was the pair of analog outputs that can be used in parallel (where they will send the identical signal to both) or as separate individual music streams. For those prospective buyers who would like to have three identical synchronized streams by using both analog and digital outputs, the digital stream will not be exactly synched with the analog. I used the second analog feed to supply a headphone amplifier, which increased my listening options. So, while you can't add rooms ad infinitum, such as with a Sonos or Muzo player, you can do three rooms if you don't need them all synched, or two if you do. Also for audiophiles who like to run A/B comparisons, the dual analog feeds afford an opportunity to hook up different amps and compare them.

The ELAC server supports multiple playback modes, including gapless, crossfade, random shuffle, and repeat.


Sonically the DS-S101-G has two slightly different personalities, depending on whether you use the analog or digital output. Obviously, the digital output's final sonic character will be determined by the DAC to which you connect the ELAC server. A majority of the time, I connected the ELAC's SPDIF output to a PS Audio DSD Jr. DAC. With 16/44.1 music, I found very little difference between the ELAC server's feed and what I got from my Mac Mini's USB connection to the PS Audio. On some tracks that I know well, I did notice slight differences between the ELAC's analog output and the PS Audio DSD Jr receiving a digital signal--the PS Audio DAC retained some additional low-level information that translated primarily into slightly more specific imaging and better dynamic contrasts.

During my listening sessions with the ELAC, I was struck by its overall sonic quality. With some new streaming devices, after a couple of weeks of listening I grow bored with the sound due to my lack of emotional involvement with the music. I did not find this to be the case with the ELAC server. Instead of being aware of any sonic shortcomings or an overall "grayness" to the sound, I was far more aware of the shortcomings of many of the recordings. The ELAC delivers, even through its analog outputs, a level of sonic sophistication that should keep any music lover enthralled with the amount of resolution and detail delivered to their ears. With Wild Beast's "Big Cat," I was impressed by the micro-dynamics and punchy and tuneful bass line.

Wild Beasts - Big Cat (Official Video)

Another pop guilty pleasure, Bea Miller's "Dracula," is populated by big synth drum hits that came through with great clarity and impact. If you compare the YouTube video with the same cut from TIDAL, you can hear how much more dynamic the TIDAL version is. The ELAC server allows this expanded dynamic palette to pass through without dilution.

Bea Miller - Dracula (Official Lyric Video)

Overall I found little to fault with the ELAC's sonic presentation when compared with the other streaming sources I had available. I do look forward to the update that delivers a newer version of Roon that promises to support MQA for anyone with a TIDAL Hi-Fi subscription.

The Downside
The main downsides of the ELAC server are a result of its reliance on the Roon Essentials Control App and this app's current limitations. For one, I found the 30,000-file limit to be a problem because I could not add new music unless I deleted other files, which was not, for me, an option. When I asked an ELAC rep about increasing the file limit, he replied, "For customers who need a larger track count and full Roon features, we will offer a higher-end product called Discovery Q [which the company showed at CES 2017]. Final details of this product are not completed yet; however, the price will be around $2,000 and may require a separate Roon license." So, if you're interested in the Discovery Music Server but have a more robust library, be prepared to wait and pay more for the new product.

The second potential downside is the requirement of a 64-bit device for the app. If you do not already own a device that is 64-bit, you will need to purchase one in order to operate the ELAC server. This could add $300 to $700 (depending on what device you choose) to the price of the ELAC system. For those readers who already have a 64-bit device, this won't be a problem. How can you tell without delving into "about this device" settings? Try downloading Roon Essentials. If it downloads successfully, you are all set.

Comparison and Competition
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, nowadays we have a plethora of options when it comes to music servers. But when you look at servers priced within a couple hundred dollars of the ELAC's $1,099 price, there are few components with a similar feature set and none with the built-in Roon option. The Sony HAP-S1 Hi-Res Music Player has a similar price, but it does not offer TIDAL or multi-library options like the ELAC.

If you only need Internet radio, access to your NAS drive, TIDAL HiFi (but no MQA Masters), no digital outputs, and a single analog output, you can do it for as little as $60 with the Muzo Cobblestone, but don't expect much in the way of an elegant or adjustable user interface and certainly nothing as sophisticated or elegant as Roon. Also the sound, while decent, isn't as involving or detailed as what you can get out of the ELAC.

The Sonos Connect ($349) offers similar features to the Muzo (minus 24/96 abilities) and the addition of a digital output. It also runs on older smartphones and pads. But I did not find the Sonos system's overall fidelity up to the level of the ELAC.

After my time with the DS-S101-G Discovery Music Server, it is clear that ELAC has assembled an excellent piece of hardware that only needs a few tweaks and updates to its software/firmware and control interface to make it a very attractive streaming option. As is, even with its current OS, the ELAC server delivers excellent sound and provides access to all the important sources for music. And with the Roon software, you get an elegant control surface that is both flexible and powerful. As of right now, for the price, the ELAC server is a clear winner.

Additional Resources
• Check out our Media Servers category page to read similar reviews.
• Visit the ELAC website for more product information.
To learn more about the Roon user experience, click here.

  • Frans Keylard
    2017-02-20 17:59:29

    Good question! Personal experience w/ Marantz AV8801 is that the absence of the JRiver and ROON user interfaces is a deal-breaker. The basic Marantz GUI is simply not a viable option. As a matter of fact, I wish they had never included it. At the time Marantz did not support multichannel streaming (5.1) or gapless playback. It sounded worse too, but that's most likely due to the more flexible upsampling options available on the PC (the killer combo of HQPLayer and Fidelizer). My Optimal Choices: 1) PC --> HDMI to Processor/AVR --> HDMI to the TV for full on-screen PC GUI, and multichannel options for both audio and video playback. 2) PC --> USB to DAC --> Stereo Analog out to Processor/AVR and controlled via iPad headless GUI to be far better choices (audio-only nirvana).

  • Steven Stone
    2017-02-20 16:13:09

    No need. Just add a Roon Remote to your 64-bit smart device and you are all set.

  • Frans Keylard
    2017-02-17 16:39:57

    If you already have a lifetime subscription to Roon, can you upgrade the "lite" version on this ELAC?

  • Steven Stone
    2017-02-16 00:54:30

    I can assure you that at least 50% of the folks reading your comment will have no idea what you are referring to. And it is a hobby because the system will require regular upkeep which will also require regular education and staying on top of the software and hardware combinations to keep them working smoothly. And while this may all seem easy to you, for many people it will not be easy...

  • Chris Barker
    2017-02-16 00:38:01

    I guess the Bryston Pi Streamer is just another hobby? It's a a RPi and HiFiBerry DAC in a nice case and power supply. $1500. So, SS ignore the future (RPi - System on Chip, IoT) at your own risk. Funny your attitude was the type of thing I got when I started playing with PCs at a Control Data owned company (1980's) full of Mainframes and Mini Computers. I was told PCs were just toys. I guess that PC thing never worked out either? Seriously, you buy an RPi Zero for $5 you put something like Volumio or Rune (MPD Players) on it if you don't want to deal with LMS. Ten minutes max of your time. Fire up a free phone app, connect to your NAS or PC where ever your music is and your done. I really don't see how this is a "hobby" (30 to 60 minutes max)? Why don't your give it a try yourself?

  • Steven Stone
    2017-02-15 21:20:14

    Logitech abandoned their streamers due to limited profit levels. Everything you have mentioned are by and for hobbyists. Nothing wrong with that, but many people do not want to add another hobby and want a music source that has support. Enjoy your hobby, but don't try force it onto others...

  • Steven Stone
    2017-02-15 21:17:10

    There are a number of music streaming solutions for under $100, such as the MUZO. Fortunately for consumers there are music streamers at all prices and with a wide array of features and levels of support. MQA support will become a standard feature on most streamers eventually, but until all the Tidal apps and variations on those apps all support MQA (still no IOS or Android Masters) are available you are getting ahead of yourself...

  • Headley Jones
    2017-02-15 18:17:49

    It would be interesting to compare these expensive music servers to the current high-end or mid-fi preamps (or even AVRs) from the likes of Marantz, Onkyo and Yamaha. My Marantz 7702mkii has all the functions of this Elac streamer + it handles DSD files and has no limit on number of files. The sound quality is outstanding. The downside is you're limited on choices for interface. Out of the box, the interfaces I've seen (including the Marantz one) are not good. You can work around using third-party software. Still, these bundled pream/AVR streamers are great nowadays.

  • Chris Barker
    2017-02-15 17:44:37

    "Comparison". Or you could use the Logitech Music Server for free, supports Tidal, etc. and has no track number limits. Use Raspberry Pi's running Picoreplayer as clients starting at $5 up to $35 add another and $20 for "Pi HAT DACs" such as HiFiBerry, etc. Free low cost Control apps on iOS, Android, Windows, Web. Why do HiFi journalists seem determined to ignore the oldest and still best free music streaming software (e.g. LMS &RPi)?

  • Rocky Rocketeer
    2017-02-13 22:41:49

    Looking closely at the Oppo Sonica DAC.. Still no MQA support so No Deal..Yet??

  • Rocky Rocketeer
    2017-02-13 22:39:57

    No MQA .. No Deal.. Until one of these units (so far only Auralic?) can deliver Tidals MQA with user ease .. Things are starting to move fast in this field.. Tidals MQA went live just last month..

  • Tieu Ngao
    2017-02-13 05:00:05

    All these digital music streamers seem over-priced. I used an old laptop to make a music server that costs me nothing. Other people build their systems based on Raspberry Pi for less than $200. Even the Oppo Sonica DAC is $300 cheaper than this. I don't understand why people even consider any streamer that costs more than $500?

  • Tieu Ngao
    2017-02-13 05:00:05

    All these digital music streamers seem over-priced. I used an old laptop to make a music server that costs me nothing. Other people build their systems based on Raspberry Pi for less than $200. Even the Oppo Sonica DAC is $300 cheaper than this. I don't understand why people even consider any streamer that costs more than $500?

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