By building a range of very fine music servers and associated products Innuos have established themselves as a major player in the streaming market, yet until now those wanting to stream direct from an Innuos Zen, Zenith or Statement have had to use a third party to do so. With the roll out of Innuos 2.0 software all that is changing and not in a subtle way, this update brings with it the company’s first control app Innuos Sense. In the past those wanting to stream from the USB output of an Innuos server had a choice of one app per platform, the iOS one is called iPeng which was developed for Squeezebox devices, it works well enough and is reliable which is half the battle with control apps but its feature set is fairly basic.
Innuos Sense brings all the usual controls required to select and play music that’s stored locally or provided by streaming services and adds a number of features that give the user a far broader range of control, up to and including editing metadata, the bane of the casual music hoarder’s digital collection. Sense is closer to Roon than any other control app we’ve seen and that is clearly a good thing as Roon is generally regarded as the best you can get, that Innuos servers have a Roon core onboard indicates they agree. But Roon is a premium product with a price tag to match and by creating their own app Innuos have been able to incorporate features specific to their own servers that Roon doesn’t offer.
They have gone deep on filtering options that allow the user to search for combined terms such as genre and year, so when I put in rock 1973 it gives all the albums that fit both categories. This will only find albums that have the relevant tags in metadata of course but it’s a refinement of what is offered elsewhere. Any search not only looks at your own library but at that of any streaming services you are signed into albeit ‘rock 1973’ brings up only 17 albums in Qobuz some of which are clearly not rock albums, Tidal manages 50 albums of equally diverse type. In most instances the word ‘rock’ appears in the album title so Alton Ellis, the Godfather of Lovers Rock carries as much weight as the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks. What appeals about the Sense search system is that it puts your own albums at the top of the list rather than mixing them in with options from streaming services.
Prior to Sense Innuos servers were managed by searching online and going to the device’s URL where it is possible to import music that has been placed in the auto import file on your desktop, edit metadata and change a variety of settings such as disc ripping format, choose between UPnP, Roon and Sonos integration and set the player output to suit a given DAC. All of these features have been incorporated into the app but remain accessible on your browser as well, in fact the app and the browser look exactly the same to the extent that there is no need to run both unless you want to.
Adding tracks to a playlist is straightforward and it’s possible to make a playlist out of tracks you have already played, which given that some apps don’t store previously played tracks at all is a real bonus. Another feature that’s new to me is the option to search on Qobuz for a track being played on a radio station, which works so long as the track name is displayed (not on BBC 6music) and isn’t so obscure that Qobuz doesn’t have it. When you track down your favourite station it’s easy to favourite for instant access from the home page. One slightly inconvenient way that Innuos 2.0 emulates Roon is in radio station access, some stations are available within the app but most have to be added by inserting the station’s URL into the appropriate box and finding the right URL can be challenging.
Having complete metadata is key to getting comprehensive search results from your own library and the fact that you can manage this from the app makes it a lot easier to do and thus more likely to get done. You tend to notice when artwork for instance is missing when sitting on the sofa and looking for music, but with many streaming controllers you need to go to the PC to do something about it, so it’s great to be able to make changes from your tablet or smartphone. This includes everything from artwork to dates to tags, the only thing I couldn’t see how to change globally is artist name which has to be done for each album.
Going to the artists listing pane reveals a Roon style roster of images of the artists and where no images is available the cover art from an album by that artist (some of whom are rarely seen), occasionally this is completely wrong as in Conjure which is confusingly a name used by two bands. At present there doesn’t seem to be a way of changing this but the 2.0 software was still in beta at the time of writing so hopefully such things will be ironed out in the coming months. Overall it provides a remarkably comprehensive array of artist images many of whom are quite obscure, although why there isn’t one for Deep Purple is a mystery.
Innuos 2.0 is now available to owners of the Statement, Zenith Mk2 and Mk3 machines and will be available to Zen and Zen Mini Mk3 units on the 21st and 28th of July, 2021 respectively. Remaining Mk2 units will rollout in dates to be defined in August.
At present the 2.0 software and Sense app will only control what an Innuos emits from its USB output but there are plans to allow it to control external streamers in the future, which would make it a genuine competitor for Roon as this is the only app that can control both servers and streamers to our knowledge. For Innuos owners who don’t use a separate streamer, Sense and the software behind it represent a significant upgrade on what went before and almost the best bit is that it’s free, which given the man hours that must have gone into its creation is very generous indeed.