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Hello/02/17

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No matter what your poison, selecting the right hi-fi gear is never an easy process and strangely enough, still the most satisfying for me. In this issue, we take away the hard work from the process of music listening and simply present the best possible systems you can assemble at various price points. Gear Change is our Cover Story this month and one that was a while in the making. Home-theatre is only gaining momentum, thanks to technologies like Dolby Atmos and HDR, our test mules from Yamaha and Arcam offer more ways to bring the cinematic experience back to your home. In fact, we find more ways to keep you home with the trio of Sony Hi-Res capable audio products – the MDR-Z7 headphones, NWA-35 music player and the PHA-3 DAC/amp. Not your everyday portable music system to commute with, but if you really want to prove a point on the Mumbai Metro, now you can! Big-screen fans on a budget should rejoice at Viewsonic’s latest DLP offering too. The PRO7827HD may be one of the best value-for-money projectors we have seen under a lac. We are only a month away from the next big AV event in the country and yes, the WHAT HI-FI SHOW is coming back home to Mumbai this March at the St. Regis Hotel. Time to book your slot for the best seats in the house!

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EDITORIAL Editor Nishant Padhiar Deputy Editor Yatish Suvarna Editor (Web) Farhan Kapadia Editor-Special Projects Vaibhav Sharma Sr. Correspondent Kaizad S Billimoria Sub Editor Infancia Cardozo Sr. Art Editor Sahaya Johnson Deputy Art Editor Kritika Dayal Sr. Designers Sukhdeep Singh MARKETING Sr. Manager Kunal Marjadi Executive Jayson Lobo ADVERTISING Group Head Harvinder Pal Singh Chief Manager Amjad Khan Managers Ashok Kumar (Chennai/Bengaluru) Sr. Executive Rohan Tamhane (Mumbai) Advertising Co-ordinator Sonal Jain, Sapna Khot PRODUCTION Manager Prasad Gangurde CIRCULATION & SUBSCRIPTION General Manager Gilbert D’Souza Distribution & Sales Head Circulation Satish Kumar, P Vijayakumar Manager Saravana D, Vimal Sharma, Ashok More, Asst. Manager Tapan H, Yogesh S, Anil Raghav Manager Subscription Mahesh Malusare Circulation Co-ordinator Rajesh Salian ACCOUNTS Finance Head Hital Vyas Manager Finance Amol Mahadik INTERNATIONAL Managing Editor Jonathan Evans Brand Editor Andy Clough Managing Director David Prasher Chief Operating Officer Brian Freeman Chief Executive Kevin Costello Chairman Rupert Heseltine Licensing Account Manager Isla Friend CONTACT Mumbai Raheja Xion, 4th/5th Floor, Opp Nirmal Park, Dr B Ambedkar Marg, Byculla (East), Mumbai 400 027. email us whathifi.edit@haymarketsac.com Call us 022-23787500 / 23787400 New Delhi A2/9, Lower Ground Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, Africa Avenue Road, New Delhi - 110029 Tel : 011-46020600, 32444090, 32969125 Fax: 011-46020633

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News-stand price ₨100 All prices and content correct at the time of going to press (*denotes indicative pricing) All rights reserved. All the data contained in this magazine is based on the information available with the publisher at the time of going to press. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The publisher makes every effort to ensure that the magazine’s contents are correct. However, he can accept no responsibility for any effects from errors or omissions. Unsolicited material – including photographs and transparencies–is used in WHAT HI-FI? SOUND AND VISION, but is submitted entirely at the owner’s risk, and the publisher accepts no responsibility for its loss or damage. Advertisements are accepted by us in good faith as correct at the time of going to press. Printed and published by Hormazd Sorabjee on behalf of Haymarket SAC Publishing (India) Pvt. Ltd. Raheja Xion, 4th/5th Floor, Opp Nirmal Park, Dr B Ambedkar Marg, Byculla (East), Mumbai 400 027.

The latest and greatest from CES 2017

Printed at Indigo Press (India) Pvt Ltd Plot No. 1, C/7 16, Off Dadoji Konddeo Cross Road, between Sussex and Retiwala Industrial Estate, Byculla (East), Mumbai 400 027. Published at Haymarket SAC Publishing (India) Pvt. Ltd. Raheja Xion, 4th/5th Floor, Opp Nirmal Park, Dr B Ambedkar Marg, Byculla (East), Mumbai 400 027.

Tech overdrive From Sony’s smashing entry into the OLED world to Burmester’s newest luxury audio gear, this was one of the most memorable CES event in recent times and we bring you some showstoppers

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CONTENTS

CONTENTS

“Cross your T’s, dot your I’s, and you’re so much more likely to build a hi-fi system to be proud of”Page 32

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THE WORLD’S MOST

One of the best ★★★★★ A serious contender ★★★★ Worth a look ★★★ Disappointing ★★ Awful ★


CONTENTS

THE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS MONTH WE’VE THE DEFINITIVE WORD ON THESE FINE PRODUCTS AV AMPLIFIERS Yamaha RX-A1060

06

Arcam AVR390

53

Yamaha RX-A3060

56

BLU-RAY PLAYERS Oppo UDP-203

68

DACS Oppo HA-2 SE

09

HEADPHONES Sony MDR-Z7

64

20 FIRST TESTS

06 FIRST TESTS

AKG N40

10

Google’s very own smartphone, impresses?

Yamaha’s new AV receiver shakes up our media room

Audeze Sine

19

Shure KSE1500

60

HI-FI SPEAKERS Wharfedale Diamond Active A1

12

PMC Twenty5.23

16

Thornet and Vander Kurbis BT

69

Focal Sopra No.1

58

SOUNDBARS Q Acoustics M3

15

PERSONAL MUSIC PLAYERS Sony NW-A35

64

PROJECTORS Sony VPL-HW45ES

13

Viewsonic Pro7287HD

67

SMARTPHONES Google Pixel XL

20

SPEAKER PACKAGES 53 HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS

47 HEAD TO HEAD

Two super cinema performers square off

ATC and Dynaudio duke it out for cinema supremacy

ATC C1

48

Dynaudio Emit 5.1

50

STEREO AMPLIFIERS Marantz PM6006

11

TELEVISIONS LeEco Super4 X43 Pro

69

HEADPHONE AMP Sony PHA-3

64

SHURE KSE1499 “The amplifier pack is beautifully made. It features a retro knurled volume control and leather carrying case” p 60

25 CES 2017 SPECIAL

68 OFF THE SHELF

Hottest AV news from the Oppo’s 4K+HDR-ready biggest tech show Blu-ray player, exclusive review

BUYER’S GUIDE

FIND THE BEST KIT AROUND, FAST! Our verdict on every product worth owning, p73 February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 5


FIRST TESTS

Yamaha RX-A1060 | AV receiver | `1,20,690

Yamaha performs a fine balancing act FOR Big, powerful sound; expressive; well equipped

AGAINST Needs care with partnering

Getting an AV amplifier right at any price involves a careful balancing act, a trade-off between things that don’t always seem as though they should naturally go together. Power and subtlety; precision and excitement; features and transparency – often these complete opposites need to become enthusiastic bedfellows if an amp is going to perform to its best, especially when it costs over `1 lac. After a few years of not quite finding that balance at this price, Yamaha has nailed it with the RX-A1060, a mid-range amp in the premium Aventage range. This means you can expect upgraded circuitry, better build quality and that anti-resonance fifth foot in the middle of the chassis to help reduce unwanted vibrations.

Beeps and blips The flap on its aluminium front panel neatly covers up a decent number of front-mounted controls, giving it a slightly cleaner, more premium look compared to that of the plastic-fronted RX-V81 Series. It’s a 7.2-channel amplifier, with support for Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 setups and DTS:X configurations for a more immersive listen. It will deliver a decently powerful 110W per channel too (8 ohms, two channels driven), with a back panel that will more-than cater for the majority of systems. Expect eight HDMI ins, seven of which support HDCP2.2 for 4K playback, three each of coaxial and optical digital inputs, a USB port, 6.3mm headphone jack and more legacy connections than you’ll

★★ ★ ★ ★

USE IT WITH ATC C1 5.1 package `4,37,000 This 5.1 speaker package is unlikely to be bettered for a long while yet

probably need. On the output side, two HDMI outs give you the option to set up a second zone should you wish. Of course Wi-Fi, AirPlay, DLNA and Bluetooth are on hand for the majority of your streaming needs (the Yamaha supports 24-bit/192kHz FLAC, WAV and AIFF files plus both single and double speed DSD). Spotify Connect is also featured, and services such as Napster are available via the Yamaha control app.

Designed for all types of residential and commercial audio - visual applicatoins

Get the

Picture

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FIRST TESTS

“It is one of the most musical amps we’ve heard at this price – enthusiastic enough to get our toes tapping, with the detail to keep us entertained” KEY FEATURES

8 x HDMI inputs

Atmos 5.1.2 & DTS:X SUPPORT

Playback of up to 24-bit/192kHz and single/double speed DSD

Yamaha’s own MusicCast multi-room system is also on board, which means you can share music with other Yamaha products throughout your home, or alternatively transmit via Bluetooth to a non-Yamaha wireless speaker. Set-up is nice and simple using the included YPAO microphone and autocalibration set-up. It’s one of the quickest and most accurate calibrations we know at this level and, after a few beeps and blips, it measures our room and adjusts our speakers accordingly. A quick check of the settings shows they look about right for our room, but it is always worth checking to be sure the calibration has judged your set-up correctly.

Big-sound thrill We play Captain America: The Winter Soldier and skip to one of our favourite scenes: when a few of the Avengers come face to face with the Winter Soldier for the first time. The Yamaha is quick to show the big, bold character we’ve come to expect from its amps. It’s a powerful, large-scale sound that easily fills our test room without second thought, putting real force and authority around the scene’s big explosions, engine-revving car chases and erratic gunfire. It’s a thoroughly exciting performance that's full of attack and drive, with effects pinged effortlessly – yet precisely – around you.

It is immediately impressive on a first listen, but what’s great is the RX-A1060 is able to hold your attention after the initial big-sound thrill. There’s a great deal of subtlety to the sound that was missing on its predecessor. Voices are as expressive and nuanced as you’d want them to be, detail spills over across the frequency range and there’s real insight into soundtracks.

Right side of bright This in turn helps it to deliver a dynamically strong performance, able to build sound up as eloquently as it’s able to pull it back down again. This means it’s capable of doing the quiet parts of a soundtrack just as well as it does the loud exciting bits, which for a powerful amp like this isn’t always the case. While its midrange and bass frequencies are superbly judged then, as with last year’s RX-A1040 we do notice a touch of edge in the treble. For this reason, you’ll want to pair this amp carefully – choose a speaker package that won’t emphasise its slightly bright, more aggressive performance and you’ll find it sits just on the right side of bright for the most part – although any scenes involving a shrill gunshot or big shattering of glass might still unsteady it.

Taming the treble This brightness becomes more of an issue in stereo-music listening, but we find switching to Yamaha’s Pure Direct mode

A flap on the front panel covers up some of the controls, giving the RX-A1060 a premium look helps soften those edges and tightens up the whole presentation so it sounds more together. But even with these minor reservations, the RX-A1060 is musically strong for an AV receiver, carrying over a great handling of dynamics and detail from its movie performance to put on a good show here too. It means it’s one of the most musical amplifiers we’ve heard at this price – enthusiastic and punchy enough to get your toes tapping but with enough detail to keep us entertained. The only problem is that, like many AV receivers, it just struggles to compete with a stereo amplifier for out-and-out rhythmic timing. There’s no doubt the RX-A1060 is a return to form for Yamaha at this price. There’s still an edge to the treble that could do with some taming (or decent pairing) for real balance, but it’s managed to address most of the other issues we had with its predecessor. Overall, the A1060 is an amp that wears lots of hats, and yet still wears them all really well. It’s certainly an excellent candidate for your audition list.

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ PICTURE SOUND FEATURES

VERDICT Yamaha has returned to form at this price, and this powerful but expressive amp is well worth a look

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 7


FIRST TESTS

The bottom edge hosts an input selector plus USB and micro USB ins

Oppo HA-2 SE | DAC | `29,999

Oppo up to its old tricks FOR Impressive features; agile sound; open treble; tight bass

AGAINST Up against some tough competition

★★ ★ ★ ★

Ever fallen for the same practical joke twice? We almost did upon our first viewing of the new Oppo HA-2 SE. As it's nearly identical to the original HA-2, we yet again tried to peel back its stitched leather cover. It looks like it should open like a smartphone case, but sadly it doesn’t.

dynamic, articulate and detailed sound still provides the solid foundations of the HA-2 SE’s presentation, but it’s as if it’s been stretched at both ends. There’s now more expression and openness at the higher and lower frequencies, making the delivery tighter and more precise. Play Destroyer’s Hell and the Oppo’s top end opens up to let the dramatic violins express themselves, with all their scratching and swooning intact. In comparison, they feel a little squashed through the standard HA-2. There’s plenty of texture and dynamic fluctuation to the melody-setting saxophone, and Dan Bejar’s characteristically bold vocals, which go from moodily morose to light and playful, are swathed in feeling throughout. They’re direct too, gushing over the top of the instrumentals with stark clarity and focus. The jazz arrangement is rhythmically sound, the Oppo breezing through the track with energy and crisp timing, revealing its escalating giddiness. With the lower frequencies, this DAC balances depth with suppleness well.

If it ain’t broke... The new ‘special edition’ version is the same pocket-friendly aluminium slab (12mm thick and weighing 175g), with the same neat volume dial in the top corner and battery indicator on the side panel. The only thing you could circle in a spot-thedifference competition is the printed model name on the back, which now fittingly adds the letters ‘SE’. We praised the original HA-2’s portability, compatibility and creative design, giving it an Award as our favourite DAC at less than `40,000 last year. The decision to keep the same appearance suggests that Oppo’s design team felt hesitant to mess with something that works.

Family resemblance The HA-2 SE’s spec sheet triggers another case of déjà vu. Like the original, it supports PCM files up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256. Connectivity is good – there’s a USB type-B input for Android smartphones, PCs and laptops, a USB type-A for Apple products, and a 3.5mm input for everything else that doesn’t have a USB connection. That means you can connect almost any source. The 3000mAh battery takes about 90 minutes to charge and offers around seven hours of listening with digital sources and 13 hours with analogue. It can also top up your smartphone’s juice. Once again, a ‘high gain’ mode – a switch on the right-hand side – means this unit is capable of driving power-hungry headphones. It can be just at home with a

The volume control feels lovely to the touch and works well too

Bass Boost pros and cons

It might look like the original but there are crucial differences inside

KEY FEATURES 32-bit/384kHz

DSD256

175g

pair of Shure SRH1540 over-ears (`43,020) as it is with Soundmagic’s E10C in-ears (`2399). Any thought that this is essentially the same product as before soon disappears though. Oppo isn’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes by simply adding ‘SE’ to the case and `2399 to the asking price. The new iteration uses the new-and-improved ESS Sabre 9028 chip, and a number of component changes are claimed to have reduced the noise floor. This may not sound particularly revolutionary, but it shines through in the performance. Thankfully, the original’s

The tonal balance is pleasingly neutral, although the ‘Bass Boost’ setting gives more emphasis to the low end and more thump to marching drums in Wildbirds & Peacedrums’ Peeling Off The Layers. However, it also takes the limelight off the vocal delivery – so we prefer it off. The HA-2 SE’s only niggling problem is the Audioquest DragonFly Red USB DAC. Not only is it cheaper but it also delivers a slightly subtler, more rhythmically sure-footed sound. The more versatile Oppo has more features though, making it one of the budget DAC market’s most important offerings – and not just its biggest

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT Minor adjustments to Oppo's 2015’s Award-winning DAC have made it as pertinent as ever in a burgeoning market

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 9


FIRST TESTS

AKG N40 | In-ear headphones | approx `29,789

Just add source for top sonic results FOR Excellent build; comfort; capable of stunning sound

AGAINST Need a fine source to sound their best

With many of us listening to music while out and about, it’s little wonder the market for premium earphones appears to be going strong. After all, why wouldn’t you want the best sound quality possible at the times you do most of your listening? There is, however, an issue: you might have the best earphones for the job when you’re out and about, but what about the source? Do you have a source talented enough to drive those high-end buds?

Sound’, filters, but you also get tiny pairs of ‘Bass Boost’ and ‘High Boost’ filters that can be swapped in to give more oomph to the bottom or top ends. This is nothing new. Around a year ago we reviewed the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus earphones, which took the same approach – and we remain unconvinced by the concept. If you like bassy headphones, buy bassy headphones. If you want trebly headphones, buy trebly headphones. If you want good, honest neutral headphones… you get the point. Once run in, the N40s with the ‘Reference Sound’ filters installed sound rather fantastic – when driven by a suitable source. Listening to the earphones plugged directly into an iPhone, or Samsung Galaxy S7, or even a

Look the part - sound the part You would expect a `29,789 purchase to impress you from the moment you open the box – and the AKG packaging acts like a presentation case, displaying the assorted contents for maximum cooing effect. The N40s are smart-looking headphones, mostly plastic in construction but lightweight as a result and made to look fancier with a shiny silver finish. They’re comfortable, too, with the fitted over-ear hooks keeping the buds secure and perfectly positioned to create an effective seal without any discomfort. Those hooks running over your ear also act as dampeners to prevent vibrations spoiling the sound. That’s great for those using these headphones during their commute. The headphones themselves are only part of the N40 story, though – the accessories are also key. You get a selection of earbuds in four different sizes, plus a cleaning tool, flight adapter, compact carry case and two cables – one ‘straight’ option, and one with a mic and three-button remote that can be used with either Android or iPhone via a little switch on the back. But perhaps the bigger selling point is the fact that you can swap the earphones’ filters to tweak the sound. Installed in the factory are the standard, or ‘Reference

Screw in one of three different filters to alter the sound of the N40s – we prefer ‘reference’

10 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

★★ ★★★ The cables hook over the ears: this makes for a more secure fit - and also helps reduce vibrations. Perfect for commuting, then…

“The N40s will work best for the listener who packs not just a phone full of hi-res tunes, but also a decent portable DAC” MacBook, gives you a flat and unengaging sound with treble that is rather hard and incessant.

DAC’s the way to do it On this performance alone, the AKGs wouldn’t be getting a five-star rating – but bolster your source with a quality DAC, such as Audioquest's DragonFly Red, and the N40s spring into life. Play Radiohead’s Burn The Witch and the track’s threatening energy grabs you by the lapels. That spaciousness remains, with Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals given plenty of room to breathe in the midst of the carefully orchestrated instrumental chaos around it. Switch to Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s soundtrack for The Road and the AKGs have the detail recovery and low-level dynamics necessary to deliver the texture and raw beauty of this recording. There’s plenty of weight at the bottom even if you avoid the ‘Bass Boost’ filters (and we would avoid them), but the lowest notes could do with just a little more impact in the leading edge. That treble, conversely, is far less hard once you’ve got a capable source

KEY FEATURES

Sound Bass Boost

– there are rare occasions that it stands out just a touch, but overall the delivery has great range and impressive balance. The AKG N40s sound great, but they’ll work best for the listener who packs into their pocket not just a phone full of hi-res tunes but also a decent portable DAC. If that’s you, we applaud your dedication to the hi-fi cause and recommend you give these premium in-ears an audition.

Swappable sound filters

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ Detachable cables

SOUND COMFORT BUILD

iPhone & Android compatible

VERDICT The M40s may be demanding of source and recording quality, but indulge them a little and they are awesome


FIRST TESTS

With its dial-heavy front, the PM6006 looks just like its predecessors

Marantz PM6006 | Stereo amplifier | `59,900

Marantz steps up once again FOR Insightful delivery; good phono stage; digital inputs

AGAINST No USB input

Hi-fi kit isn’t like festival tickets, train fares or council tax. If the price goes up there is generally a good reason for it. Marantz’s budget stereo amplifiers usually enter the market around `25,000, so we can’t help but look at the`59,900 Marantz PM6006 – part of the brand’s new 6006 Series, alongside the CD6006 CD player – through quizzical eyes. The PM6006 appears to be a modest heir to the five-star PM6005, getting a second optical input, new ‘high-performance’ feet, and upgraded internals such as improved power supply and metal housing.

sparse recording, The National’s Pink Rabbits. The Marantz lays down the baritone vocals with pleasing insight – emotion is conveyed with the clarity to stand apart from the piano and drum accompaniment without sounding astray. A 24-bit/96kHz recording of Willie Nelson’s Dark as a Dungeon cover (via coaxial) reveals the PM6006’s sonic ability and its knack for revealing textures. His country twang is captured by the recording’s spaciousness, and the Marantz paints a serene and calm canvas that befits the song. The predicament facing the PM6006 is that its price puts it closer to the Award-winning Cambridge CXA60 (`63,400). The CXA60 takes punch, solidity and detail levels far enough to justify the extra outlay. The transition from Marantz’s PM6004 amplifier to the PM6005 saw the addition of a DAC and digital connections – an upgrade that hurled it into the digital age – but no such leap has been taken with the PM6006. Matching its predecessor’s legacy connections – four line-level inputs, a phono stage, 6.3mm headphone port and tape-loop for recording – it still has the same 24-bit/192kHz support and retains its predecessor’s single coaxial input. The PM6006 looks just like its predecessors, going right back to the

Emotional baggage The good news is the same smooth, suave outlook and even-tempered balance of its predecessor manifests itself from the first few guitar twangs of Santana’s Song of the Wind. But when switching between the PM6006 and the 6005, we notice the 6006’s presentation is cleaner and clearer – more solid too, particularly through the midrange. The bluesy instrumentals have more assurance – the epic electric guitar solo ripping through the arrangement has more passion and pathos, while the Marantz is determined to bring cymbals, bass guitar and drums to your attention. La Fuente del Ritmo from the band’s Caravanserai album shows off the PM6006's dynamic handiwork. There’s variation to the piano notes, which go for warmth over outright crispness – as is often the Marantz way. The jazz/salsa fusion is one of the more rhythmically intricate in our collection, but the Marantz takes it in its stride – only starting to sound muddled when the volume is pushed up too far. We let it come up for breath with a more

★★ ★★★ KEY FEATURES

Phono stage

24 bit -192 kHz

Hi-res

Two optical inputs

PM6001. It’s still a solidly built aluminium chassis, in silver or black, with a dial-heavy front for input, volume and tone controls. The second optical input makes it more versatile for someone with a combined two-channel hi-fi and home cinema system looking to connect a hi-fi component – Marantz’s CD6006 CD player or N6005 streamer, for example – as well as a TV. With the PM6005, we expressed a wish for a USB input for a more straightforward connection to a laptop, but that wish remains unfulfilled. With the right adapter, you can hook up a laptop via either of the amp’s optical inputs, but it’s not ideal.

Nailed down The Marantz PM6006 exists as another solid go-to for someone nailing down their first hi-fi system. It has clearly improved sound over the PM6005 and a marginally more appealing set of digital connections. Right now, it stands as a stepping stone between the Award-winning Onkyo A9010 and Cambridge amplifiers – and rightly deserves to be in such formidable company. The only real disappointment is that, again, Marantz hasn't quite fully embrace all digital sources.

says The PM6006 has many connections – but no USB input

Rating ★★ ★ ★★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT Yet another fine budget amp from Marantz – and there’s room for further digital upgrades

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 11


FIRST TESTS

Wharfedale Diamond Active A1 | Stereo speakers | approx `51,000

“Even, clean and detailed balance” FOR Detailed sound; taut bass; expressive mid range; set-up

AGAINST Not the most rhythmically precise or energetic

★★ ★ ★ ★

Silver driver surrounds and a black leatherette finish help give a premium feel

Many things require solid foundations to function – houses, marriages and cheesecakes to name but three. With many of its recent speakers inspired by the successful Diamond 200 Series, you can add Wharfedale’s speaker engineering to that list too. The 200s now form the basis of another two closely related powered speakers: the A2 floorstanders and the A1 standmounts. The A1s are based on the Diamond 220 standmounts and are 32cm tall and 19cm wide. They feature the silver-coloured driver surrounds from the Diamond 200 Series, but also have nicely rounded cabinet edges and are finished in black leatherette (with black or white baffles).

The hub of the matter The A1s come with a separate control hub that your sources connect to – either via the hub’s optical, coaxial or RCA inputs, or over aptX Bluetooth. It wirelessly communicates the music signal to the speakers over the 5.2/5.8GHz frequency band, avoiding the often-crowded 2.4GHz frequency for less interference. However, Wharfedale’s ‘true wireless’ claim should be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s true that they don’t need physically wiring to one another, but both speakers still need to be connected to the mains. They also have to sit within 20m of the hub, admittedly not a problem for most. The hub looks like a giant’s coffee coaster. It has touch controls on its top panel to change volume and input, adjust the tonal balance and update the software. The remote control makes performing those functions even easier.

KEY FEATURES

aptX Bluetooth

100W power output

A stereo pair, or twin mono Inside each speaker cabinet you’ll find a 50W amplifier. This drives a 13cm woven Kevlar cone mid/bass and a 25mm fabric dome tweeter. The speakers have a few features of their own too, such as bass adjustment, and a mono mode so that they can go solo in different rooms. Each speaker can also act as the left or right channel in a stereo pair. We place them just over 2m apart, 30cm from a rear wall and slightly toed in towards our listening position. Here we strike gold, revealing the Wharfedales’ even, clean and detailed balance. In Sturgill Simpson’s Oh Sarah, the plucked bass guitar line is deep

12 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

“The hub looks like a giant’s coffee coaster. It has touch controls to change volume and input, adjust the tonal balance and update the software”

Optical, coaxial, RCA inputs

and tuneful, the reverb insightfully intact, but it never threatens to overshadow what is a focused, well-integrated midrange. We’re taken aback by the fullness of Simpson's vocals, which are as expressive as they are solid. At no point does the sombre string section feel sidelined, either. Mostly the Wharfedales deliver on cue, although Imogen Heap’s The Listening Chair reveals an issue on the rhythmic cohesion front. They get the structure of the album’s eclectic catalogue of domestic sounds, but they aren’t as convincing when it comes to tying them together.

These speakers never sound subdued, but nor do they ever really let loose. A sense of liveliness is absent whether sourcing music from our Naim NDS/555 PS streamer or playing Sunflower Bean’s Human Ceremony from Spotify. You feel the Wharfedales lean more towards finesse than fervour. A system built around the A1s is invariably going to be neater and simpler than a traditional hi-fi set-up. While not the purveyors of the chirpiest sound around, they remain an option to take seriously.

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND BUILD

Your sources connect to a separate hub, either with or without wires

COMPATIBILITY

VERDICT These powered standmounts are a fine and practical alternative to a budget system of separates


FIRST TESTS

KEY FEATURES

1800 lumens

3D

The Sony's tidy, unassuming box won’t dominate your living room or home cinema

Full HD

Sony VPL-HW45ES | Projector | `1,90,000

“This projector sets new standards” FOR Crisp picture; natural colour pallete; easy set-up

AGAINST Nothing particularly at this price

Many things are blindingly evident the moment you set your eyes upon them: War and Peace is too long to enjoy; that bloke clearly plays World of Warcraft; don’t invite a tiger over for tea. A new addition to that list could be the Sony VPL-HW45ES. So clearly talented is it that, from the moment it shines upon our screen, we fret over the number of ways we can tell you to buy it.

The VPL-HW45ES comes with a handy compact remote control

“So talented is the Sony VPL-HW45ES that, from the moment it shines upon our screen, we fret over the number of ways we can tell you to buy it” many projectors are prone to over-egging the pudding in this respect, overcompensating for the medium with brash, excessively lurid tones. The VPL-HW45ES, however, can pride itself on a subtle palette without forgoing any of that vividness.

Subtle palette Two years on from the release of the Sony VPL-HW40ES, we believe this Full HD projector (also compatible with your 3D movies and loaded with features to customise the picture to your viewing satisfaction) sets new standards. It looks unassuming enough – a tidy box, available in light grey or black, that won’t dominate your living room or home cinema – but its clean façade belies somewhat its capabilities when you turn it on. Set-up is simple. Having propped the VPL-HW45ES on our AV rack and connected it to an amp, it takes just a few twists of the lens to get the image to fit and a whizz through a THX Optimizer disc before we're watching The Imitation Game on Blu-ray. Sony claims the projector’s 1800 lumens brightness means you get a clear, crisp picture even in a well-lit room, but we’d suggest cutting all the lights to feel the full force of what this piece of kit can do. The picture is undeniably crisp and detailed, shirt creases showing as clearly as the outlines of the figures wearing them. Colours are pleasingly natural as well –

★★ ★ ★ ★

Deep pockets We play around with colour and brightness, but find the original (post-THX Optimizer disc) settings to be accurate. We experiment with motion processing on The Imitation Game, but find the highest settings look a little unnatural and overly processed. Turning them off leaves the action juddering a little, but there’s a middle ground that suits the combination of slow-moving drama and the odd war scene perfectly. Depending on personal preference and the type of film you’re watching, the VPL-HW45ES is more than capable of finding the right fit.

There are a multitude of features here, but due to the native picture-quality being so good, rather than the settings themselves being obsolete, you needn’t worry too much. Don’t expect the world from Reality Creation, however high you set it while watching Fifty Shades Of Grey. Essentially, the VPL-HW45ES is really good. If you want anything better you’ll need much deeper pockets, but at this price we'd recommend this Sony whether you’re upgrading your home cinema set-up or willing to invest an extra chunk into kicking off with a projector that will stand you in good stead for years to come. Will it trouble the Awards? You'll have to turn a few pages to find out, but this review might be the only clue you need.

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ PICTURE FEATURES

For the best results, cut the lights and see what this great piece of kit can do

BUILD

VERDICT As soon as we switch it on, we realise the Sony VPL-HW45ES is a winner. It comes with our hearty recommendation

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 13


FIRST TESTS

Although it houses the same elliptical subwoofer as its Media 4 stablemate, the M3 presents a sleek, clean shape

Q Acoustics M3 | Soundbar | `43,000

Design rethink for Q’s latest device FOR Clear, detailed, weighty sound; design; ease of use

AGAINST Booming bass; competition from within

By all rights, the new Q Acoustics M3 soundbar should have a five-star review in the bag. After all, it builds on the company's Media 4, which has been our favourite budget soundbar (and Award-winner) since 2014. An updated and sleeker design, extra features such as HDMI, and a clearer, more detailed sound should all point to the M3 superseding the old bar. So what's going on?

inputs and a 3.5mm socket to plug in other sources. For those wanting to stream songs wirelessly, aptX Bluetooth makes the process fast and painless. The LED around the bar's power button lights up with different colours depending on the input used, and the top control buttons have been redesigned as well. They are responsive. Equally responsive is the

Slimming regime pays off The new M3 improves on the Media 4 in many ways, the most obvious of which is the design. The M3 looks sleek and modern. It’s an improvement upon the Media 4’s rather awkward trapezoid shape, which has been slimmed down to something more sensible and bar-like in the new version. Build quality is sturdy, and the svelte shape is all the more impressive considering the M3 houses the same large elliptical subwoofer driver from the Media 4 in the back of the unit. This negates the need for an external subwoofer. Two BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) drivers handle the left and right channels. Anyone disappointed in the lack of HDMI inputs in the Media 4 will be pleased to know the M3 has one at the back of the unit. Other connections include an optical input (which can support music files up to 24-bit/96kHz), a pair of analogue RCA

The colour of the button surround is input-dependent

“The piercing edge of shattering glass and squealing tyres sounds crisp and attacking” tiny credit-card-style remote, which is basic but simple to use. One new addition is the ‘MoviEQ’ sound mode, which claims to enhance movie soundtracks (read: more ‘oomph’ to the bass). Considering the M3 already has an abundance of bass that doesn’t need exaggerating, we’d steer clear of this mode – the normal ‘stereo’ mode works just fine. We start with the John Wick Blu-ray and instantly find ourselves drawn into the big, rich sound that goes well beyond the soundbar’s modest proportions. There’s plenty of meat to sink your teeth into when bullets fly and punches are thrown. Dialogue is clear and direct, too. There’s enough nuance coming through to discern the assassins' deadpan delivery. The M3 delivers the brooding soundtrack’s crunchy guitar riffs and thumping drum beats with plenty of power. The piercing edge of shattering glass, squealing tyres and pinging bullets sounds crisp and attacking through the M3, and there's generally more clarity and detail than with the Media 4. What lets the M3 down is a booming quality to the sound that spoils the otherwise decent

★★ ★ ★ ★ KEY FEATURES

Optical in

aptX Bluetooth

HDMI

balance. Clarity and organisation isn’t entirely compromised, there’s just a little muffin-top around the midrange that sounds ungainly. It’s present throughout and sticks out like a sore thumb, regardless of the type of music you listen to. The M3 also falters on rhythmic ability. The edges of notes don’t stop and start as precisely as they do on the Media 4, nor does it handle dynamic shifts with the subtlety needed to build up tension in songs such as The Dead Weather’s 60 Feet Tall. The Media 4 simply times better. It has a better sense of rhythm, and of how instruments should gel together. It’s that effortlessly musical and subtle touch that makes it a more engaging and immersive listen with movies and music alike.

Too close for comfort If it weren’t for that booming bass, the new M3 would have fared far better. Then there’s the matter of price. The M3 costs `43,000 – just `20,000 shy of the Media 4. As the M3 isn’t a direct replacement, it’s a bit baffling why they are so similarly priced. It means, in a straight comparison, the Media 4 is still the soundbar we’d recommend. The M3 has plenty going for it in terms of its smart design and rich presentation. In certain ways it’s a step in the right direction, but it needs to offer better performance to step out of the Media 4’s long shadow.

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

No frills on the remote, but it‘s clear and simple

VERDICT There’s plenty to like about this new soundbar, but its older sibling overshadows it – and for similar money

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 15


FIRST TESTS

PMC Twenty5.23 | Stereo speakers | `3,85,000

Compact floorstanders take a big step forward FOR Agile; detailed; lovely midrange; bass authority; build

AGAINST Some might find the cosmetic detailing a bit showy

★★ ★ ★ ★

PMC is 25 years old. In that time it has grown from a small concern focused on professional monitors into one of the mainstays of the premium domestic speaker market. The company’s new Twenty5 range celebrates that, and demonstrates just how much it has learned over the past quarter of a century. We’ve already reviewed (and loved) the largest standmounts in this range. Now it’s the turn of the starter towers, the Twenty5.23s. This model is already turning out to be the big seller of the range, and it’s not hard to understand why.

OEM supplier SEAS. It uses a Sonolex dome and is designed to deliver a smooth, insightful sound with wide dispersion. PMC has long been a fan of paper cones, but for the Twenty5 range it has moved to a material called G-weave – a resin-bound, fine-weave glass-fibre and pulp hybrid cone material claimed to deliver improved rigidity without adding too much character. The 23s uses a 14cm unit, designed with a long throw to cope with large-scale dynamics and high volume levels. Its chassis is made of cast alloy and designed to be as open as possible to minimise any impedance to air flow as the cone moves. A PMC wouldn’t be a PMC without the use of transmission-line bass loading. A transmission line is a folded path built into the speaker cabinet that takes the rearward energy from the mid/bass unit and absorbs all but the lowest frequencies. These bass frequencies exit the speaker through the mouth on the base of the front panel and augment the drive unit’s forward output.

refined while the low-end is strong without dominating. We’re also pleased with the speakers' composure and their ability to keep things in order even when the music becomes demanding.

Compact dimensions The Twenty5.23s are small. Standing just over 90cm high and 16cm wide, they are compact enough to fit into most rooms without intruding. That’s an important factor. A product can sound brilliant, but if it can’t fit unobtrusively into a domestic environment it won’t even make the shortlist in most cases. PMC understands this point better than most. It’s not just the size, either. These are smart. Some may find the metal detailing a little showy, but the 23s look more like luxury furniture than typical floorstanders sold at this price. There are four finish options – oak, walnut, amarone and diamond black. Our samples are beautifully made, and everywhere you look, from the crisp cabinet edges and nicely machined stabiliser bars on the base to the lovely terminals, the finish is impeccable. While these may resemble the muchadmired Twenty 23s, the only things carried over are the screws that hold the tweeter. The Twenty5’s cabinet keeps the now-established slanted look, but the company has done a lot of work to make it as solid and low-resonance as possible. The most obvious change is the move from full-size plinths to metal stabiliser bars. As before, PMC uses isolating rings between the base of the cabinet and the spike assembly. The drive units are all new. The 27mm soft-dome tweeter is co-engineered with

16 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

A smoother flow of air The big advance for the Twenty5 series is the addition of what PMC calls the Laminair vent. This is the fancy finned structure visible at the mouth of the 23’s transmission line and it’s designed to smooth the way air flows out. The advantages claimed are less noise, faster responses and better low-end definition. And that’s how it turns out. Once up and running these 23s are hugely capable. They’re best in small to medium-sized rooms and deliver a beautifully balanced sound. We start off with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and are soon caught up in the action. The 23s are surprisingly dynamic, delivering subtle and larger-scale dynamic shifts with enthusiasm. They punch hard and go loud, yet maintain their composure. Of course there’s a limit to what such compact boxes can do, but at no point do we feel short on authority or low-end weight. Tonally, things are well judged. There’s plenty of bite in the treble but it remains

Imaging is about placement Stereo imaging is excellent – just keep these PMCs away from sidewalls and at least 30cm in front of the back wall. Once positioned properly, the 23s render an expansive soundstage that extends well beyond the speakers themselves. It’s precise, stable and layered with care. The claims made for wide dispersion ring true, as the imaging doesn’t falter when we move away from the (relatively) wide sweet spot. A switch to Adele’s 21 shows off the PMC’s excellent midrange performance. Vocals are nicely separated and strongly projected, with each nuance and subtle shift in pacing rendered with skill. The 23s deliver a full dose of Adele’s passion on Someone Like You while communicating the drive to make the most of tracks such as Rolling In The Deep. This ability to track rhythms is rammed home when we listen to Drake’s Headlines, where the PMCs sound right at home hammering out the hard-charging beat yet still tracking Drake’s distinctive drawl with determination. While the 23s are relatively unfussy, you still need to partner them with talented kit to hear what they can really do. We think the likes of Roksan’s Caspian M2s (CD and amp combination) or Naim’s pricier ND5 XS streamer and SuperNait 2 amplifier pairing would work well.

Significant advance At first we feared for the Twenty5.23s. They don’t look all that different from the well-regarded Twenty versions and cost around a third more. But once we started listening it’s obvious that the new speakers are notably better across the board. If you’re looking for a top-class pair of compact floorstanders we can’t think of a better alternative. Highly recommended.

USE IT WITH Roksan Caspian M2/M2 CD `2,21,800 The CD player's ryhthmic bite and the amp's finesse complement the 5.23s beautifully


FIRST TESTS

The finned mouth of the transmission line – the Laminair vent – is designed to boost low-end definition

KEY FEATURES

Two way

Transmission line

Single wire

The beautifully machined singlewire terminals typify the 5.23s' high standards of build and finish

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND COMPATIBILITY BUILD

VERDICT These floorstanders are terrific. Match them with a suitably talented system and the Twenty5.23s will sing

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 17


Though touted as portables, the Sines are quite heavy and clamp a little tightly

Audeze Sine | On-ear headphones | `39,990

It’s a Sine of the times FOR Spacious presentation; go loud; 3.5mm cable

AGAINST Uncomfortable if worn for long periods; pricey

Apple’s decision to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 might have been a turning point in headphone design, but some headphone companies are already one step ahead. At `39,990, the Sines are at the more expensive end of the market. And they use planar magnetic technology instead of conventional drivers, still something of a rarity for headphones. The Sines have rock solid build quality, with a tough aluminium frame, sturdy leather finish and thick, flat cables and, though touted as portable cans, they aren't as convenient as rival portables. The earcups don’t swivel, for instance, making them awkward to pack away when you're on the move.

★★ ★ ★ ★

The edges of notes are cleanly etched out, with guitar strums neatly defined, and drum snares hitting with just enough bite. But once you get past those attentiongrabbing first impressions, you notice the upfront character comes at the expense of subtlety in dynamics and rhythm. That brooding bassline in The National Anthem sounds big and muscular, but it needs to be tauter and dig deeper to really get under the skin. We want the Sines to punch better with more impact, and convey the grungy dirtiness to the edges of that bassline, rather than pushing everything forward in the name of excitement.

A tough aluminium frame and sturdy leather finish means build quality is solid

Many alternatives

“In a post-3.5mm headphone jack world, Audeze has put the right foot forward but we can’t help being a little disappointed”

You won’t be able to make a direct comparison to the iPhone 7, but you get a more engaging performance by plugging the 3.5mm cable into the iPhone 6S’s headphone jack. The loudness goes, but the start and end of notes are more defined, there are more layers of detail between each note, and timing is better. Musically, it’s a more interesting listen than through the Lightning cable. Audeze has put the right foot forward with its premium-quality headphones in a post-3.5mm headphone jack world, but we can’t help being disappointed. The solid build quality and robust sound will appeal to some, but it’s not the most comfortable, subtle or precise sound for the money. The options for wired headphones to use with the new iPhone 7 are limited, but there are plenty of excellent wireless alternatives. Headphones such as the B&W P7 Wireless (`29,990) and the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless (`27,990) combine style, comfort and superb sound quality for less than the Audezes. No multiple cables

They're rather heavy, too, and the clamping pressure on our samples is also a little too high, which affects our long-term comfort.

Clocking in The main headline for the Audeze Sines is that Lightning connector at the end of its ‘Cipher Lightning cable’. But what’s more pertinent is the 24-bit DAC-and-amplifier built into the same casing as the threebutton remote and mic. The DAC takes over clocking duties from the iPhone, reads the digital music data coming through the Lightning port and also operates as a headphone amplifier. It’s worth noting the DAC will draw a little power from your iPhone when playing, but we don’t notice a huge drain on the battery. You won’t be able to listen to music and charge your phone at the same time, as both functions use the Lightning connector. Thankfully, the Sines also come with a conventional cable with a 3.5mm plug – crucial for listening to products that still have an old-school headphone jack. Both cables are thick, flat and sturdy but, like the Audeze cans themselves, are built for strength and durability, not aesthetics. They can become grubby over time, especially the grippy ends where the cable plugs into the headphones.

The Sines sound better through the 3.5mm jack Using an iPhone 6S, we play Radiohead’s The National Anthem, and it goes loud. For iPhone owners used to tapping the volume up button in vain, this is the Sines’ best aspect. It means you get a thumping beat when listening to Blackstreet’s No Diggity, and feel the full, ominous power of the iconic riff in Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath. The upfront character of the Sines is instantly rewarding, greeting you with layers of clear detail in a spacious presentation.

KEY FEATURES

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ Apple Lightning connector cable

SOUND FEATURES BUILD

24-bit DAC

VERDICT The Audeze Sines are loud and upfront, but not comfortable, subtle or engaging enough to justify the price

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 19


FIRST TESTS

Google Pixel XL | Smartphone | `67,000 (32GB)

“Rubs shoulders with the giants of the mobile world” FOR Latest Android version; slick interface; sharp screen

AGAINST Sound quality isn't the best; not fully waterproof

★★ ★ ★ ★

For years, Google has employed other brands – LG, Motorola and HTC to name but three – to design and manufacture its Nexus smartphones and tablets. But the global tech giant has gone it alone with two new smartphones: the Pixel and the Pixel XL. Or at least, that’s what its ‘Made by Google inside and out’ strap-line would have you believe. But though the Pixels sport Google’s branding on the back, the brand hasn’t erected its own smartphonemanufacturing factory overnight. For it’s actually HTC behind the Pixels’ hardware.

while it doesn’t quite have the Samsung Galaxy S7’s vibrancy and high contrast, it’s hardly a washout either. The XL sits between the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6 Plus in size – an XXL version would cross into ‘phablet’ territory – but the curvaceous corners of its aluminium unibody and the subtle wedge around its side panel help with ergonomics. Its relative slimness means it can be operated one-handed, and the fact the buttons, fingerprint scanner and camera lens are all flush or inset means there are no bumps or bulges to contend with. It’s every bit the sleek and trim construction we’d expect of a smartphone this pricey, and that’s only helped by the glass panel on the back where the Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner sits, and the classic choice of colour finishes: ‘Quite Black’ (apparently to Google, that’s grey) and a more decisive ‘Very Silver’. Google Assistant is essentially a more conversation-based extension of Google Now, and a rival to Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. For now, it's exclusive to the Pixels and other Google products like the Home wireless wi-fi speaker. Pressing the home button or saying “OK Google” (even when the phone is locked) launches the service, and any voiced interaction is presented in a chat layout. You know the drill: ask it to open Spotify and play a tune, WhatsApp a friend or take a selfie, and it obliges. More impressive is the Assistant’s willingness to keep chatting. Ask it “what is the weather like tomorrow?” and it second-guesses your next question with ‘what about the weekend?’ Ask it the time and it will also give you the option to

set a timer or alarm. Users are entitled to unlimited cloud storage, so can wave goodbye to ‘storage is full’ notifications for videos and photos, which is good as Google has packed performance into the Pixel XL’s snapper. In fact, with a best-ever score from industry-recognized DxOMark Mobile, the camera might be one of its strongest features. The front camera snaps at 8MP and records in 1080p, the rear 12.3MP and 4K/60fps. On paper, similar to the Nexus 6P.

Muscling in at the top However, everything from the handset's industrial design to the user experience is Google’s own doing, making the Pixels the first true bona fide ‘Google’ phones. There will be no more Nexus, as the line has been usurped by Pixel. But the Pixels aren’t merely a more Google-heavy replacement. Whereas the Nexus offered premium, flagship-worthy specs at a slightly lower price than the top-dollar Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and LG G handsets, the Pixel rubs shoulders with the giants of the mobile world. The cheapest 32GB Pixel handset is `67,000. That’s serious cash. Considering the market leaders are the long-established Apple and Samsung, muscling in at the top is a tall order for any newcomer, even one with the resources and reputation of Google. To stand out, the Pixels have to offer something different. Not only are they the only smartphones with the company’s new Google Assistant, but Pixel users also get free, unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos. Ironically, the Pixels don’t have the industry-leading Ultra HD screen (3840 x 2160) heralded by the likes of the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. The Pixel XL features a Gorilla Glass 4-protected AMOLED screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 – Quad High Definition (QHD) as the industry has coined it. It’s a healthy 5.5in, sharp and bright with a refined colour palette and penchant for nuanced detail. Lines are crisp and contrast punchy, and

20 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

Sweet operation It also features an improved and instant version of the HDR+ multi-image capability built into some Nexus models, and the results are impressive. With HDR+, the camera manages to combat the discrepancies in lighting and dig up detail in every area. Daylight shots are just as pleasing: crisp, detailed and brimming with subtle colour tones. Even with the zoom stretched there’s very little discernible noise. Snapping feels instant, with rapid shutter-speed and no autofocus lag. Video stabilisation is one of the camera’s most valuable bits of software – the effect can look overdone, but generally it does a good job of eliminating judder and smoothing out action clips. While Google is busying itself on Android-Chrome hybrid operating system ‘Andromeda’, the Pixels stick to the familiar Android format and are the first to show off the latest 7.1 Nougat version. Using the Pixel XL is as pure an Android

KEY FEATURES

Android Nougat 7.1 OS ■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■ ■■■■■■■

QHD AMOLED screen

12.3mp front camera

Aluminium and glass panels on the back make the Pixel XL look sleek and trim, as you’d expect at this price


FIRST TESTS

“Everything from the handset’s design to the user experience is Google’s own doing, making these Pixels the first true bona fide ‘Google’ phones”

There’s no Ultra HD screen, but the Pixel XL has a refined colour palette and a penchant for detail

experience as you’ll get: there’s no second skin layer over the top, and the interface is stripped-back and more intuitive for it. Thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, everything from screen responsiveness to launching apps and performing tasks is prompt. Fast charging means the 3450mAh battery can be topped up for seven hours use in just 15 minutes. Like the Marshmallow Android version before it, Nougat is as sweet an operation as you could wish for. Of the new features here, the most useful is split-screen – by dragging one app on top of another, you can keep on top of messages and emails while following directions on Google Maps or video-calling your mum. A new ‘Night Mode’ tints the screen amber for easier reading in dim light and Doze (the battery-saving idle mode launched as part of Marshmallow) now works on the go and not just when you’re stationary. It also promises even more effective power saving. The app drawer is summoned by a swipe

up on the home page. Pop-up notifications from the same apps are bundled together, and there’s now an option to reply directly to messages within the notification window without having to launch the app. A quick tap of the Google logo on a homepage launches a pop-up search for speedier web surfing too. There are three shortcuts Google calls ‘move gestures’: swiping your finger down brings up the notification bar; a double-tap of the power button launches the camera; twisting the phone swaps between front and rear snappers. Google has also introduced long-press shortcuts for most Google apps. It’s all about getting more options from fewer presses. You can compose a message directly from holding down the Gmail icon, or choose whether to set an alarm by doing the same with the clock. But when it comes to sound, it’s as if

USE IT WITH Apple Music `120pm Superb streaming service with great sound quality, strong interface and extensive catalogue

Google’s engineers ran out of steam. There’s no hi-res audio support and the sound quality is nothing special. We plug in a pair of B&W P5 S2s and find a smooth, tonally even sound. But play Chromatic’s Ceremony and the presentation is as lax as the synths shimmering calmly behind the guitar. But you don’t need a particularly upbeat song to know that something’s missing. The Apple iPhone 7 and even the Samsung Galaxy S7 throw more drive and conviction behind the track’s guitars, making the Pixel sound soft and restrained by comparison. The two rivals provide greater space for the electronica to evolve around the vocal, and reveal enough subtlety to communicate the discrepancies between each guitar twang. Through the Pixel, there’s not really much in the way of dynamic activity to get across the interest or emotion in the recording, and as a result it sounds flat. Thankfully for Google’s mobile team, the Pixel XL has plenty of other talents. The uncompetitive sound quality is a shame, but usability and innovation is high on the list of pros. The organic Android experience, now slicker and more user-friendly than ever, is a joy to use and, with Google Assistant, its future looks bright indeed. But it all boils down to the million-dollar question: is that enough to tear people away from LG, Samsung or perhaps even Apple? We aren’t convinced.

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ PICTURE SOUND FEATURES

VERDICT The Pixel XL impresses with its features and pure Android experience, even if sound quality isn’t the best

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 21


It’s time to rock the Regis: Seventh edition of the WHF show hits home!

The Hi-Fi bandwagon is in its hometown, Mumbai this March. Block your dates, book your flights, sell your organs if you haven’t already and make sure you’re there for India’s biggest Hi-Fi Show...

W

e’ve come a pretty long way (with all our organs intact, thank God). The first What Hi Fi Show was held way back in 2012 and a then young What Hi-Fi clad in boy’s clothing is now wearing a younger man’s clothes. Suited and booted with a hat full of experience, we want you, dear reader, to experience what real Hi-Fi is all about. It’s time to bring the magazine to life yet again and give you an opportunity to treat your eyes and ears to the countless amount of high-end kit and the numerous AV brands that take part in the What Hi-Fi Show. It’s been a long journey and we’re happy to be sharing it with you.

Jamo and Klipsch will be equipped and ready to thrill you with new kit for 2017

Designed & Registered in India

Ultra HD 4K HDMI Cables with 24K Gold Connectors Designed to give you better signal transfer

Amritsar Delhi/NCR Mumbai Panipat Punjab Rest of India

+91 9781024400 (Ankit Chopra) +91 9310939238 (Prem Gera) +91 8286587198 (Rahul Shukla) +91 9215947001 (Amit Lakra) +91 9814534343 (Puneet Dhand) +91 9810139238 (Sunil Khera)

www.aerodigitalworld.com info@aerodigitalworld.com


INSIDER

4

Onkyo H900M headphones get plastered with diamonds!

If you loved a bit of shiny on your headphones, your prayers stand answered. Our sister brand Stuff was given an exclusive preview in a top-secret vault well away from prying eyes where the diamond-encrusted headphones are being kept under lock and key. The earcups decorated with a highly polished stainless steel ring and aluminium plate hand-studded with 20ct of top-clarity diamonds. And just in case that wasn’t enough for you, the right earcups are denoted by an additional red ring of rubies.

5

Gone over the Moon

First things first, get yourself a new living room because this is about as serious a piece of statement hi-fi you can get. Canadian audio specialist Moon by Simaudio has thrown everything it’s got at its state-of-the-art 888 monoblocs. The numbers are impressive: 888W of power, each unit weighs 250lbs and the price tips closer to a dearly crore. But we think they look gorgeous, and given that they are manufactured using the same processes as highperformance racing engines - with tolerances set at just 1/1000th of an inch - performance should be exemplary.

6

Panasonic Ezes into things

The moment we walked into the Panasonic booth, we knew it’s second-generation OLED set is something special. The Panasonic_EZ1002 is flat rather than curved like its predecessor, and claims to offer more than double the peak brightness of a standard OLED TV. And we know Panasonic knows a thing or two about making impressive TVs with deep black levels. It’s also compatible with different types of HDR: as well as the industry standard HDR10, it supports the new Hybrid Log Gamma HDR format that’s expected to launch later this year. Consider us interested, very interested.


INSIDER

7

GoldenEar reveals Triton Reference flagship speakers

This gorgeous new speaker unit features not two, not four but 10 drivers. There is one HFVR (High-Velocity Folded Ribbon) tweeter, two 15cm mid/bass drivers, and three active long-throw sub-bass drivers, coupled to four passive radiators. And if that’s not enough, there are subwoofer amplifiers and some 56-bit DSP control units, an evolution of the company’s Triton One speakers and SuperSub subwoofers. They won’t blow a hole in your bank account either at under 3 lacs and will be available on sale in the second quarter of this year.

8

SweetVinyl Sugarcube SC-1

Every vinyl lover has the problem of how to make older, perhaps less well cared for records sound better. Californian company SweetVinyl has come up with an intriguing solution: basically, the SC-1 is a digital noise filter that removes the pops and clicks on old records in real time. A special algorithm can detect, isolate and remove only unwanted noise from the music, leaving the original music intact. The device can also act as a hi-res analogueto-digital and digital-to-analogue converter, so you can upsample your music for higher quality playback. We are in love with this one already!

9

Focal Utopia by Tournaire are world’s most expensive headphones

French hi-fi specialist Focal managed to freeze us in awe with its $120,000 (that’s about 82 lacs) Utopia by Tournaire. Maison Tournaire is a master jeweller run by father and son Philippe and Mathieu Tournaire. They have created a bespoke design for Focal based on the mark of the Trilogy, the symbol of the Tournaire jewellers, which represents the three stages of life: the past, present and future. The design uses 18 carat gold mounted with six carats of diamonds, all hand crafted in Tournaire’s workshops.


INSIDER

10

LG Signature OLED W7

Here at CES LG has unveiled a ten-strong OLED TV line-up for 2017, embracing the W7, G7, E7, C7 and B7 ranges. Star of the show is the 77in ‘W’ model with Dolby Atmos sound via a separate soundbar and support for four different types of HDR (High Dynamic Range): Dolby Vision, HDR10 and new for this year HLG and Advanced HDR by Technicolor. Available in 65in and 77in screen sizes, the LG Signature W is so thin it can be hung on a wall using ultra-slim magnetic brackets, so it only protrudes by 4mm overall “giving the appearance of a window” (hence the ‘W’ in the name) according to LG. An upward-firing soundbar that sits under the screen claims to deliver Dolby Atmos sound. Gorgeous.

11

Sony launches new NW-A35 Walkman

A brand new Walkman? Yes please. It supports all high-res audio formats, including DSD. At a mere 98g, it is light and comes in five bright colours: viridian blue, cinnabar red, charcoal black, lime yellow and bordeaux pink. Battery life is impressive: you get up to 45 hours when listening to MP3 files, or up to 30 hours if you’re listening to full-fat hi-res tracks. It comes with 16GB storage on board, but those with large music libraries will be happy to hear that you can expand that memory thanks to a microSD card slot.

12

B&O announces BeoPlay M5 wireless speaker

According to B&O you’re the perfect audience for its newest wireless speaker, the BeoPlay M5. The M5 has three tweeters, a front-facing midrange driver, and a 5in neodymium downwardfiring woofer for the low frequencies, all aiming to deliver omnidirectional sound to ensure you can place it wherever you like in your room.

13

Mark Levinson celebrates 45th anniversary with first turntable

Mark Levinson in collaboration with VPI Industries gives eager showgoers time to be awed by the No.515 turntable. Not only does it look the part, but it has all the engineering prowess you’d expect from the two companies. If you are looking for a lifetime of satisfaction in the audiophile realm, it probably won’t get better than this.


INSIDER

The stunning stand is home to a subwoofer (8cm, ported) and four HDMI ports. It can also be collapsed for wall-mounting .

15

Sony introduces its first 4K OLED TV range

Calling this TV stunning would be an understatement. The A1 series combines an OLED panel with the X1 Extreme 4K HDR processor used in Sony’s flagship ZD9 series. Sony claims the X1 Extreme can draw out the full potential of self-emitting OLED panels, resulting in deeper blacks and brighter colours. It also offers a form of HDR remastering so standard-definition content can be uspcaled to “near 4K HDR quality”. The A1 sets also gets Sony’s Acoustic Surface technology that vibrates the display and enables the sound to be output directly from the TV screen. This eliminates the need for conventional speakers to be placed around the screen.

14

Burmester B18 stands tall

At CES this year, Burmester unleashed the classly looking B18 floorstanders. These have been developed as a 2.5-way bass reflex speaker system with a front-firing design. Burmester promises it is a space saving design. The custom designed ring radiator ensures optimum clarity and resolution and a re-designed, computerized spring-mass damping system decouples the speaker from the ground. Its only natural we yearn to review this soon enough.

16

Arcam rPlay adds hi-res streaming and multi-room to any system

If you invested in a top-notch audio system a few years ago and want to add hi-res and multi-room capability without binning all your current kit, Arcam’s rPlay could be just the ticket. It’s a DAC and wireless/multi-room streamer in a compact aluminium case, and it’s main party trick is that it’s compatible with DTS PlayFi, Apple Airplay and UPnP (Universal Plug and Play).


INSIDER

PVR lets you go private

PVR’s Vkaao lets movie fans set up special in-theatre screenings via the web or app. As of now, Vkaao offers a selection of 380 movies, including those in regional languages and Hollywood. Users can pick their movie, choice of cinema and screening time in advance, with a minimum number of seats that need to be sold out (varies according to seat class and theatre) for the screening to go ahead. Users also have the option of making the screening private.

Panasonic opens first 4K Imaging Pro centre Panasonic has opened its first 4K Imaging Pro centre at Connaught Place in New Delhi. Aimed at content creators and pro photographers who also work with video, this new centre will showcase Panasonic’s range of cameras, video gear and accessories. Apart from

Sony’s XAV-AX100 works with Android Auto and CarPlay

Sony has launched its new Xplod XAV-AX100 car entertainment system. Compatible with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, this new 6.4in unit features Bluetooth connectivity, 55W x 4 output, along with Sony’s Extra Bass and Dynamic Stage Organiser technology. The AX100 also offers the option to plug in a reversing camera and comes with an external mic.

New sports headphones from Panasonic

Fitness buffs have a new set of wireless headphones to look out for – Panasonic’s RP-BTS50, which uses 12mm drivers and offers ‘safety lighting’ LEDs. Other features include IPX5 waterproofing, Bluetooth, support for aptX and AAC audio, a flat, tangle-free cable, six hours of playback and quick charging. 30 | What Hi Fi?| February 2017

this, Panasonic will also offer a series of training and awareness workshops on topics such as 4K and 6K image capture, post-production and video editing. Expansion to other cities including Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai is also on the cards over the next year.

ViewSonic want to prosper with the help of phospor ViewSonic Corp has launched its new line of laser phosphor-based digital projectors aimed at home entertainment, education and business users. Laser phosphor is a lampless projection illumination platform that uses blue laser diodes as the primary light source. LS820 and LS830 are ViewSonic’s new offerings from its LS Series of projectors. Both these projectors are perfect for those times when you’re in a surrounding where high ambient light can be an issue (read: business and education environments). The company’s proprietary SuperColor and SonicExpert technologies ensure that these projectors deliver advanced color and enhanced sound reproduction. LS820 and LS830 feature 0.24 ultra-short throw lenses, up to 20,000 hours of operation, 100,000:1 contrast ratio and 3D-ready

capabilities. Further, there’s a hidden MHL/HDMI port called PortAll that lets you discreetly stream multimedia content from a mobile device to the projector via a wireless dongle. The ultra-short throw LS830 projector features high brightness levels at 4000 lumens and the LS820 features 3500 lumens of brightness. The LS820 is a native WXGA-based projector, while the LS830 boasts native Full HD 1080p resolution. The ViewSonic LS820 has an MRP of `3,75,000 while ViewSonic LS830 retails at `3,99,000.


INSIDER

BOSE UNVEILS THE LIFESTYLE 650 COMPACT HOME THEATRE SYSTEM OmniJewel satellites are the smallest speakers Bose has ever made Bose has introduced its Lifestyle 650 home-theatre system in the Indian market. This 5.1 speaker system uses a wireless Acoustimass bass module with QuietPort technology and a receiver unit with six 4K HDMI inputs. Other features include NFC, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, optical, coaxial and analogue inputs, an IR repeater and Ethernet. The receiver supports Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS and Multichannel PCM audio and features Bose’s Adaptiq room optimisation tech. The LifeStyle 650 also supports Bose’s SoundTouch app. However, the highlight of this new 5.1 system is its new OmniJewel satellite units. According to Bose, these are the smallest satellite speakers it has ever made. Made out of a single piece of extruded aluminium, each OmniJewel speaker contains two acoustic enclosures for dual-opposing drivers and weighs around 350g each. The front units feature wired connections, while the rear units work wirelessly. The Lifestyle 650 will retail at `3,99,999, and will sell alongside the Lifestyle 600 (`2,99,999), which uses JewelCube satellites and centre units.

Will stand up to your

Highest A.V.

expectations

A frameless speaker that fits into your ceilings and lets you fill your home/ Office with a rich, clear sound. By just connecting your device via Bluetooth and selecting your music, you can tune in to an enveloping listening experience.

BlueSync EXPERIENCE STATE-OF-THE-ART AUDIO WITH FRAMELESS BLUETOOTH AMPLIFIED SPEAKER

Bluetooth version: 4.0 Transmit Distance: >10M Speaker Driver: 0.75�Tweeter, 5.25�Woofer Frequency Response: 60Hz-20kHz Amplifier Output: 30W Cutout Dimension: 210 Overall Dimension: 227X100mm

Amritsar +91 9781024400 (Ankit Chopra) | Delhi/NCR +91 9310939238 (Prem Gera) | Mumbai +91 8286587198 (Rahul Shukla) |

Panipat +91 9215947001 (Amit Lakra) | Punjab +91 9814534343 (Puneet Dhand) | Rest of India +91 9810139238 (Sunil Khera) | Marketed & Developed by Sight & Sound India Pvt. Ltd., Plot No. 4, 1st Floor, M.G. Road, Ghitorni, Opp. Metro Pillar No. 117, New Delhi-110030 www.audiostics.com I info@audiostics.com


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G

GEAR CHANGE

System upgrades need careful thought. So, whether you’re replacing everything or simply making improvements, we thought we’d offer a little advice

“I

t’s no good having a band with the 10 best guitarists if I don’t have a pianist,” said former Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini after losing his job. It’s an elegant metaphor, whether it’s describing a musical ensemble, a football team or a hi-fi system. In essence, it’s about balance as much as it is individual quality. The whole should amount to more than, or at the very least equal to, the sum of its parts. But balance is one of those concepts that can be hard to define, let alone to find. While a lot of it boils down to trial and error, there are certain guidelines that will aid and, hopefully, truncate your path to sonic enlightenment.

Sorting your priorities

The first two questions you need to ask yourself are what you’ll be using your system for, and how much you’re willing to spend. The latter relates to the former. It’d perhaps be easiest to begin at the start of the chain – what will you be using as your source? Each decision will have a knock-on effect: if you play all your music from your phone or tablet, but want a traditional hi-fi system, you’ll likely want something with Bluetooth built in; if you 32 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

play mostly vinyl, you’ll need to think about whether you want a turntable with a phono stage or to buy the latter separately for more versatility when upgrading in the future; if this isn’t going to be your main hi-fi system, can you do without another CD player and invest more heavily elsewhere?

Make a list

It’s probably worth making a tick-list of the features you want, such as headphone output or Bluetooth, then prioritising the things you need most and which you can do without so that your money stretches further. Having a realistic budget from the off will also help you spread your money more evenly. It should stop you buying your dream amplifier with the lion’s share, only to match it with a budget turntable whose flaws it’ll emphasise, exacerbated by playing it through a pair of speakers you found by your neighbour’s bin. There’s more to careful pairing and system building than simply buying components that retail at a similar price, of course, but budgeting properly for each part of the chain ought to set you on the correct path.

”Don’t buy your dream amp only to match it with a budget turntable and speakers you found by your neighbour’s bin”


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G

WHATS ON TEST iPhone 7, Oppo HA-2 SE, AKG Y50 ₨97,989 Marantz CD6006, Onkyo A-9010, Q Acoustics 3020 ₨1,18,800 Rega Planar 2, Rega Brio-R, Dali Zensor 3 ₨1,15,500 Dynaudio Xeo 2, Pure Music, Macbook Air ₨2,50,187 Cambridge Azur 851N, Rega Elex-R, ATC SCM11 ₨3,89,000 Naim ND5 XS, Parasound Halo Integrated, PMC Twenty5.23 ₨9,10,000

You might also have space restrictions. If you haven’t room for multiple separate components, you’ll need to consider where you can pool certain functions, such as a turntable with built-in phono stage, a ready-made system with amplifier and CD player combined, or using active speakers to reduce the number of boxes to accommodate. This needn’t affect the quality of your system, and it isn’t a decision that needs be made solely on space, but think carefully about which parts you’re most likely to want to upgrade when electing those you can combine.

Speaker spotlight

It’s also worth reading the feature we published last month on how to choose the right speakers, because space can affect your choice there as well. Speakers react differently depending on their position in a room and how close they are to each other and to any walls, so the

best-sounding pair you can afford when listening at a dealership might not be the best-sounding pair when you get them home. We always recommend measuring the dimensions of your room when it comes to choosing the right speakers. Don’t be blasé when it comes to positioning, either; they’re likely to come with a manual with the manufacturer’s suggestions for placement, but there’s nothing like experimenting with a keen ear.

Building blocks

Of course, you may well not be building your system from scratch. Perhaps you already have one or more components and now you’re looking to match the final pieces of the jigsaw. We often make the point that you shouldn’t dismiss a product simply on its star rating in our magazine, but this is a particularly pertinent point if you’re looking to pair something you already own. Certain products may not be flawless allrounders, but they could well have the blend of talents you’re looking for.

So often in life it’s the little things that can make the biggest impression, and that’s the case with system building. Specifically, don’t skimp on quality cables or speaker stands – you simply won’t get your money’s worth if you do. And the golden rule, as always, is you ought never buy anything without having heard it first.

Find a good supporting cast

A good support lets your kit perform optimally, turntables being particularly sensitive and responding well to a rigid, low-resonance platform, so steer clear of those wobbly floorboards or uneven bits of carpet. And if you can use a dedicated mains outlet that would be ideal – and avoid placing mains cables and signal cables too close to each other, it can degrade performance. We’ve put together six systems, reviewed over the next few pages, that might help give you some ideas to get you started. But these are just examples. Go to a dealer, listen to a range of products and be open to all possibilities. Most importantly, take your time – when setting up as well as when buying. As an inarticulate doctor once said, patience is a virtue. Cross your T’s, dot your I’s, and you’re so much more likely to build a hi-fi system to be proud of. February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 33


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 97, 9 8 9

SYS T E M O N E

i P H O N E 7, O P P O H A- 2 S E , A KG Y 5 0

“The right external DAC and a talented set of headphones” iPhone 7 from `60,000 ★★★★★ Oppo HA-2 SE `29,999 ★★★★★ AKG Y50 `7990 ★★★★★

It would have seemed absurd, not so many years ago, that by now you could have such high-fidelity sound on the bus to work, but never has pretending not to notice the colleague who just walked past you up the aisle felt so darn brilliant. In terms of the systems we’ve put together in this feature, this is the one of which you’re most likely already to own at least one of the components. We’ve used the latest Apple iPhone as an example here, a smartphone renowned historically for the quality of its music playback, but the point is more that any phone can have its audio output markedly improved by the right external DAC and a talented set of on-ear headphones.

The partners

To that end, we’ve paired ours with an Oppo HA-2 SE, the ‘special edition’ version of the company’s 2015 Awardwinning portable DAC and headphone amp, and a pair of three-time Awardwinning AKG Y50s. That’s a quite reasonable price on top of your smartphone cost. The point of the Oppo in this set-up is essentially that it will take over from your phone’s inbuilt components for digital-to-analogue signal conversion and headphone amplification, following the general rule that a product focused on a specific purpose is likely to be able to do it better. Specifically, the HA-2 SE supports PCM files up to 32-bit/384 kHz and DSD 256, and can connect to Android smartphones, PCs and laptops via its micro-USB input, Apple products through a USB type-A input and 3.5mm 34 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

jack for everything else that doesn’t have a USB connection. And, because your phone battery likely runs from 100 per cent to empty within the space of a few albums, the fact you can top up from the Oppo is a tidy solution to arguably the most first-world of first-world problems. If you’ve picked up our magazine even semi-regularly over the past few years, you’re unlikely to be a stranger to the talents of the AKG Y50s. Put simply, there are no better-sounding portable on-ears under `10k – they’re detailed, dynamic and time exceptionally well, with an even balance ideal for highlighting what the rest of your chain is up to. A quick blast of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures directly from the iPhone – well, through a Lightning-to3.5mm adapter because of you-knowwhat – shows up that refined, rhythmic sound that’s made Apple phones such a popular choice for music fans since day one. But we know it can be better. The question is: how much? Oppo comes dancing in with the answer. If the clout of Stephen Morris’s

drum kit, tethered to the ground by Peter Hook’s iconic bass line, seemed authoritative before, the rhythm section that opens the album on Disorder is now positively dictatorial. It’s tight, agile, and builds the sturdiest of platforms for Bernard Sumner to wash over with his soaring guitar line that aptly spotlights the openness of the treble as it reverberates through the track.

Crucial details

Detail has never been in short supply on the iPhone, yet the Oppo manages to dig out even more, largely in the textures of those grime-drenched guitars that now take on extra dimensions. Ian Curtis’s vocals, too, seem to be afforded a closer inspection in terms of dynamics and expression, the crux of his refined yet emotional delivery. The HA-2 SE is really pulling its weight, and is framed gorgeously by the talented yet honest presentation of the AKGs. If you’ve a phone you love for all but its sound, or you just want its audio performance to be even better, this is a combination well worth trying out.

Or swap in one of these… Sennheiser Momentum, `5399

iPhone 7 Plus, from 72,000

★★★★★

★★★★★

Their reputation might be burdened by the ubiquity of `500 tat given away with smartphones, but there are in-ear headphones doing their utmost to prove you can do without cans. Clear, detailed and expressive, with no shortage of low-end, these are great if you find the AKGs too big.

As narrow-minded as we are, we do understand there’s more to a phone than how well it makes a noise. It’s physically grander than the standard iPhone, but the 7 Plus’s major victory over its sibling is its camera; there are two of them that shoot as one. Never have your cat pics been so nuanced. Audioquest DragonFly Red, `18,900

★★★★★ Electrical goods, Lays, your disposable income: so many things appear to be decreasing in scale. And so it is with class-leading DACs. The Red produces so sophisticated, solid and subtle a sound, it’s baffling how Audioquest shoehorned its talents into so meagre a chassis.


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 97, 9 8 9

OK, so there’s no 3.5mm port any more, but the 7 honours the iPhone’s impressive audio pedigree

They might be in your face visually but there’s nothing brash about the Y50s’ detailed, dynamic sound

”A soaring guitar line that aptly spotlights the openness of the treble as it reverberates through the track”

If you ever doubted the value of an external DAC in a portable system, the HA-2 SE will set you straight in an instant

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 35


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 1 ,1 8 , 8 0 0

Each of these three is an accomplished all-rounder, so their total sonic output is way more than the sum of their parts

36 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 1 ,1 8 , 8 0 0

SYS T E M T WO

M A R A N T Z C D 6 0 0 6 , O N K YO A- 9 0 1 0 , Q A CO U S T I C S 3 0 2 0

“This is the sonic equivalent of wearing all black: dead suave” Marantz CD6006 `59,900 ★★★★★ Onkyo A-9010 `30,000 ★★★★★ Q Acoustics 3020 `28,900 ★★★★★

Some combinations are more difficult to get wrong than others – you can think of this system as the sonic equivalent of wearing all black. As long as it’s properly fitted, you’re bound to look dead suave. More than just a case of lining up three long-standing Award-winners in a row – though the Q Acoustics 3020s did lose their title by a guinea-pig’s whisker this year – each member of this trio is so undemanding, such an all-rounder, that it would be quite implausible for them not to end up complementing each other.

has a decent array of line-level inputs, a moving-magnet phono stage and headphone output, while the omission of its own inbuilt DAC has allowed Onkyo to focus its energy on making the A-9010 a class-leader in every other respect. It is that graceful midfielder in the black boots, so easily undervalued, who keeps everything simple but drives the team with effortless, match-winning elegance. And up front, if you will, the 3020s, which for so long have been our reference for entry-level speakers. Entirely unfussy, they’re loyally willing to feed on scraps, but properly nourished they boast an exceptional combination of refinement, insight and dynamics. Despite our attempts to resist undue narcissism, upon inserting the CD of R.E.M.’s 1991 MTV Unplugged set we are satisfied that, yes, we really do know how to put together a great system. From the opening few seconds of Half A World Away we get a tremendous sense of space and an impressive amount of detail that immediately differentiates both between guitars and mandolin and the varying textures of the organ.

We’ve said before that the CD6006 favours easy listening over studious analysis, which is by no means a slight, but here partnered with the A-9010 the Onkyo has the vigour to spotlight every bit of energy Marantz has to offer, so never does laid-back become lifeless.

Balanced teamwork

Perhaps most impressive, though, is how well each of these talented components complements the others dynamically. No one is shirking any responsibility, the system tracking rises and falls to deliver an expressive, engaging performance that can be so often lacking in entry-level set-ups. There are few voices more wrought with emotion than Michael Stipe’s, and this trio is more than capable of proving it. For just above a lac, we don’t think there’s a more widely talented system to play your CDs and, let’s not forget, hi-res files. Try out some different components – perhaps you’ll favour something with a more specific bent than these allrounders – but you’d be foolish not to at least give these a go.

Make the most of it

Marantz is a name that has become synonymous with the mastery of affordable CD players and, while `60k is by no means loose change, we couldn’t give you a solid reason not to buy the CD6006 unless you’re willing to spend a lot, lot more. As well as your standard stereo analogue outputs, the CD6006 will let you bypass its internal DAC and use it purely as a transport via digital optical and coaxial connections. But we’d warn you not to be tempted without having first made the most of the DAC inside. It’s a high-quality, high-resolution (24-bit/192kHz) Cirrus Logic CS4398 affair, capable of dealing with betterthan-CD-quality digital files via the USB input on the front. If you’ve any hi-res files on a USB stick then the CD6006 effectively becomes a hi-res audio player. Though that price tag then seems to appear more and more of a bargain, fear not, there is a budget amplifier more than capable of making the most of the Marantz’s offerings. The Onkyo A-9010

Or swap in one of these… Rega Planar 2 `48,000

Rega Fono Mini A2D `15,000

★★★★★

★★★★★

We fully subscribe to the belief that vinyl deserves a quality vehicle to get from (side) A to B. Now over 40 years old, the latest universally talented Rega Planar 2 has more than justified itself as said vehicle. Its authoritative, detailed sound will mix sweetly in with the A-9010 and 3020s’ gifts.

If you fancy slotting in the Rega Planar 2 (left), might we humbly suggest you pair it with this moving-magnet phono stage from the same maker rather than employing the one in the Onkyo. It’s no-frills to the core, with the rear sockets joined by an unusual front-mounted earthing point. Great dynamics, punchy and cohesive. Tannoy Eclipse 3 `44,000

★★★★★ Bonnie Tyler wouldn’t have written a song about the Tannoy Eclipse if they weren’t that good, now would she? Our favourite floorstanders under `50k, the Eclipse 3s’ agility and expressive articulation make them a tantalising alternative for those after greater-than-standmounter oomph.

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 37


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 1 , 5 1 , 5 0 0

SYS T E M T H R E E

R E G A P L A N A R 2 , R E G A B R I O - R , DA L I Z E N S O R 3

“They tag-team to tackle tough rhythmic patterns with ease” Rega Planar 2 `48,000 ★★★★★ Rega Brio-R `69,000 ★★★★★ Dali Zensor 3 `34,500 ★★★★★

The key to system synergy is finding components that know how to bring the best out of each other. Often one of the easiest ways to do this is to choose components from the same company. Of course, blindly pairing kit based on brand is not the way to go, but you can usually expect two items from the same manufacturer to have a similar character and, if picked carefully, share strengths that can really make your system sing.

Brand compatibility

The two Rega components in this system are proof of this. Though the half-size Brio-R is a few years old now, it still offers one of the best phono stages in an integrated amp at this price, and a level of transparency and consistency of character in the line stages that’s second to none. That’s vital for a turntable-led system like this, and provides the perfect platform for the Planar 2 deck to shine. It’s also worth noting that it would – should your budget allow – work well with the Planar 3 too, such is the Brio-R’s flexibility to work well with pricier kit.

A worthwhile sacrifice

What’s not so flexible is its connectivity. There are competitors that’ll give you far more by way of input variety, but the Brio-R’s upfront, musical character really gels with the natural musicality and authority that the Planar 2 has to offer. And that’s what really counts here. Their strengths mirror and complement each other perfectly. Both agile and light on their feet, they tag-team to tackle tough rhythmic 38 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

patterns with ease, and despite the Brio-R’s relatively modest output of 50W per channel, this is an amplifier able to convey the large-scale dynamic sweeps from the Planar 2 with decent power and precision. They’re both equally enthusiastic and keen to please, but it’s perhaps their way of making sense of a piece of music that’s most endearing. Their ability to tie all the musical strands of a song together and paint them on a precise and spacious canvas comes easy to this Rega combo. It’s in that sense most of all that this pairing just works.

The fun factor

Of course, this is only two thirds of the system puzzle. We’ve chosen the Dali Zensor 3s to complete the picture – and for very particular reason. They aren’t the most refined speakers at this price, but they’re a really fun listen and are hugely likeable, complementing the lively and exciting Rega character perfectly while sharing the amplifier/turntable combo’s strengths in dynamics, timing and organisation.

These speakers do offer a slightly weightier balance than that provided by the other two components, helping to neutralise the somewhat brighter and more upfront character of the Brio-R and delivering a healthy dose of scale, power and deep bass in the process.

Know your place

You will want to play around with the speaker placement to make sure you get the maximum impact of the Dali’s abilities though – despite the Zensor 3’s bass response being pretty impressive for the size of its cabinets, if you place them too far from a wall, the brightness can creep back in. We place the Zensor 3s about 50cm from a back wall, not toed in, and any problems are all but gone. Positioned with care, they deliver a punchy low end and have added solidity to the midrange alongside a crisp, clear treble. It all comes together to make for a truly engaging listen, full of detail and expression, with a strong sense of timing that doesn’t miss a beat. Now that’s what we call synergy.

Or swap in one of these… Tannoy Eclipse 3 `44,000

Cambridge CXA60 `63,400

★★★★★

★★★★★

Yes we know we’ve already mentioned these speakers, but the fact is, the Eclipse 3 would also fit quite seamlessly into this system as a floorstanding alternative to the Zensors, offering a similarly agile, expressive and detailed performance but adding a bit more girth.

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away (in fact it was this land here), you couldn’t buy a great `60k integrated stereo amplifier. Then along came Cambridge with the CXA60. If you don’t require the phono stage in the Brio-R, this enthusiastic, snappy amp is probably the way to go. Marantz CD6006 `59,900

★★★★★ Remember Wife Swap? Well, it never went this well. Just as the Rega Planar 2 fits the system in which we selected this Marantz, so the CD6006 will hold hands gleefully with Brio and Zensors for those who prefer CDs to vinyl. It serves up a big, expressive sound and effectively doubles as a hi-res player.


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 1 , 5 1 , 5 0 0

Combining a natural musicality with great authority, the Planar 2 also finds time to look really rather elegant

Rega might supply the heart in this system but it’s the fun-loving Dalis that really bring the sound to life

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 39


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 2 , 5 0 ,1 8 7

For Mac users, Pure Music enables high-res playback via iTunes. There are alternatives for those with PCs

The active Xeo 2s don’t just sound great, they’re compact, flexible and have adjustable sound settings

40 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 2 , 5 0 ,1 8 7

SYS T E M F O U R

DY N AU D I O X E O 2 , P U R E M U S I C , M A C B O O K A I R

“The Dynaudio Xeo 2s are the perfect just-add-source system” Macbook Air `80,900 Pure Music `9287 ★★★★★ Dynaudio Xeo 2 `1,60,000 ★★★★★

If you want a system that keeps things simple, you can’t get much simpler than this. The Dynaudio Xeo 2 active speakers need only a source, so add a laptop filled with music (we’ve chosen a Macbook Air for its musical flair) and some good audio software into the mix, and you’re all set. Even getting the Xeo 2s up and running is easy – just plug each one in to a power source and they’re ready to go. The speakers work together wirelessly, so you don’t even need to run a cable between them – for the ultimate in placement flexibility.

For a start, it offers a lot of the scale and authority of its wired character, with a weighty low end that’s not scared to put some wallop behind a chunky bassline. It’s well-handled though, and is never overpowering, having enough rhythmic know-how to stay composed during faster-paced tracks and integrate with the Xeo 2’s expressive midrange and articulate treble.

Active ingredients

One advantage of active speakers is that their engineers can ensure the various internal elements work together in harmony. And so it is here. In fact, there’s a level of transparency at play in the Xeo 2s you’d be hard-pressed to find from a similarly priced system of hi-fi separates. That’s not a boast a set-up like this can make very often. Switch it up to a wired system to play some high-resolution files and these benefits become even more apparent. Of course, with iTunes not supporting high-resolution music, FLAC or DSD files, it’s worth investing in a piece of companion software that can – we use

Channel D’s Pure Music (£110) for Mac. JRiver is a good alternative for PCs. Pure Music layers itself seamlessly over iTunes, so you can carry on using Apple’s software as you would usually, but with the ability to load hi-res files into your library and play them natively. It sounds better than iTunes too, both by dodging any iTunes sound-processing and by caching audio into RAM before playback to reduce jitter. Ultimately, music sounds more fluid, solid and cohesive, not to mention the added transparency of higher-resolution tracks.

The space/timing continuum There’s more space using a wired connection as well, and timing is tighter still. Best of all, all the above applies no matter what your musical tastes. Flexibility and convenience might not be words usually associated with excellent sound quality, but the Xeo 2s break the hi-fi mould. Versatile, easy to house and offering a performance more than worthy of their asking price, the Dynaudio Xeo 2s are the perfect just-add-source system.

Compact and adjustable

This is helped further by their relatively compact size, meaning they can fit almost anywhere you need them to. And the EQ settings on the master speaker allow you to choose whether they are placed in a neutral, wall or corner environment. That said, even on the wall setting we’d still recommend giving these speakers at least 10cm clearance from a back wall for the best balance. Whether you want to listen to your music wired via the system’s 3.5mm input (there are also RCA and optical ins for adding a TV or other hi-fi components) or fancy the wireless convenience of Bluetooth, the Xeo 2 system can support it. And, unlike with a lot of kit, you won’t have to compromise on sound if you cut the cables. Of course, for any hi-res tracks, you’re going to need a hard connection, but for CD-quality tracks or streaming services the Xeo 2’s wireless performance shows a clarity and sophistication we wouldn’t usually expect over Bluetooth.

Or swap in one of these… HTC 10 from `40,000

★★★★★ Great hi-fi sources come in all shapes and sizes. If you don’t want to store tons of music on your laptop, a sonically exquisite smartphone such as the HTC 10 will more than suffice. It matches precision and detail with drive and enthusiasm, and all from the palm of your hand. Sonodyne SRP202 ₨27,830 each

Apple Music ₨140/month

★★★★★

★★★★★

With all the extra gubbins they pack in, the Dynaudio Xeo 2s are more a system than merely a pair of speakers – but you don’t need a budget in touching distance of a lac and a half to enjoy what your laptop has to offer. For half, the SRPs offer a punchy, musical, open sound with real verve.

If you had walked into HMV 10 years ago and declared “all these will soon be invisible”, you’d have been shown to a padded cell. Nowadays this formerly lunatic concept is Apple Music, the Award-winning service offering an almost incomprehensible catalogue of CD-quality, lossless audio.

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 41


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 3 , 8 9 , 0 0 0

SYS T E M F I V E

C A M B R I D G E A Z U R 8 5 1 N , R E G A E L E X- R , ATC S C M 1 1

“Delivers more faithfully than a Catholic Labrador” Cambridge Azur 851N `1,27,000 ★★★★★ Rega Elex-R `1,20,000 ★★★★★ ATC SCM11 `1,42,000 ★★★★★

Like an open fire on a winter’s evening, with the attendant magnificence produced when you throw on another block of wood and the homely taste of the whiff of smoke that escapes the mouth of the chimney, there will always be a home for physical media in the world of hi-fi. Yet, as central heating has in many ways usurped the wood fire, the rising prominence of network streamers is pushing home listening into an ultra-convenient 21st-century domain. And who could complain when that domain is occupied by wares such as the Cambridge Azur 851N? If you’re in search of your first network streamer, want to future-proof your system with a healthy investment but aren’t quite prepared to fork out an extra lac for a Naim ND5 XS, there’s no better way we can fathom spending `1.2 lacs.

Budget statement

When it comes to streaming-based systems, it’s best if you can build up a healthy budget rather than skimp on quality just so you can get your kit more quickly – if, that is, sound quality is as much a priority for you as convenience. Once you’ve gathered the requisite funds, the good news is you won’t necessarily have to forego features in order to enjoy good sound quality. The Azur 851N, for example, is far from sparsely specified: it doubles up as a pre-amp, meaning you can plug straight into a power amplifier; music signals pass through two 24-bit Analog Devices DACs working in dual differential mode, meaning lower distortion, more transparency and greater detail. And it 42 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

boasts two coaxial and optical inputs with three USBs and an AES/EBU input, thereby providing no small measure of versatility for partnering kit. In this system, we’re pairing the Cambridge with Rega’s Elex-R amplifier, with built-in phono stage (so you don’t have to bin all your vinyl just yet), and a pair of ATC SCM11s. In essence, this pair, each of which held onto their respective Awards this year, are just great across the board – they’re detailed, dynamic, great with timing and hugely transparent. We’ve long used them as reference when testing a similarly priced source, and the rule sticks – take care with what you place at the front of the chain, and this Rega/ATC combination will deliver more faithfully than a Catholic Labrador. So when we play Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, we are entirely unsurprised to hear the Cambridge’s performance in all its glory. That glowing midrange, so characteristic of Justin Vernon’s latest work, washing vocal harmonies in ethereal reverb, comes across as gorgeously full-bodied and warm,

though without any sacrifice of detail or evenness in the balance. There’s also a widescreen view of the Azur 851’s spacious soundstage, placing instruments and samples naturally among each other, in their own space but undeniably tethered to one another. That’s a sign of the sense of timing these products share as well – it’s one of the aspects with which streamers sometimes struggle, but here all three components are easily capable of organising the various off-beat and off-kilter rhythms that make up this sonic collage of an album.

Quality to spare

As we alluded to, the glory of this Rega and ATC marriage at the end of the chain is such that, if you have the extra budget to invest in Naim’s Award-winning ND5 XS, they would be more than capable of showing off the jump in quality of your source. But for sheer value, the Azur 851N, with its full-bodied, rhythmic and spacious sound, more than earns its place here. For insight and transparency, we can’t show this system enough respect.

Or swap in one of these… Revel Concerta M16 `97,800

Cambrige Audio CXN `79,600

★★★★★

★★★★★

Quite simply, these are the best speakers under `1 lac we’ve heard. As well as a spacious soundstage, the M16s offer strong dynamics and a weighty bass. The Cambridge and Rega complement them nicely – over-aggressive kit can make the M16s’ searing insight sound edgy.

Cambridge has obligingly assured you needn’t shell out over a lac to take home one of its Award-winning streamers – for much less than the Azur 851N, you may own this fine specimen. Fully decked out with all the latest streaming features, it gives a thoroughly entertaining performance.

Naim Nait 5si `1,35,000

★★★★★ Much as the Rega/ATC combo is a match constructed in paradise, this Naim amp has what it takes to shake that stable relationship. It delivers a dynamically and rhythmically solid performance that also supplies stacks of detail plus huge scale and authority.


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 3 , 8 9 , 0 0 0

The Azur streamer is an Award-winner but, should you want to upgrade, the Rega and ATC will be up to the job

�Gorgeously fullbodied and warm, though without any sacrifice of detail or evenness in the balance�

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 43


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 9 ,1 0 , 0 0 0

Insightful streaming, feature-packed and neutral amplification, and a stunning pair of speakers – your ticket to hi-fi heaven

44 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017


SYS T E M B U I L D I N G : ` 9 ,1 0 , 0 0 0

SYS T E M S I X

N A I M N D 5 XS , PA R A S O U N D H A LO I N T E G R AT E D, P M C T W E N T Y 5 . 2 3

“Feed it a hi-res track and you’ll really hear this system shine” Naim ND5 XS `3,00,000 ★★★★★ Parasound Halo Integrated `2,25,000 ★★★★★ PMC Twenty5.23 `3,85,000 ★★★★★

When you’re spending this much money on a system, it’s hard not to want it all. Bells, whistles, performance and then some. But this end of the market is often the preserve of more purist kit, where features are stripped back to concentrate on sound gains. For some it’s worth it, for others it’s restrictive. That’s what makes this system so refreshing. Fully equipped to tackle anything from Bluetooth to high-res to headphones, it’s an unusually accommodating set-up that works hard to make its price tag make sense, all the while not scrimping on performance. Sitting at the heart of this trio is the Parasound Halo Integrated amplifier, which offers a spec sheet largely unheard of at this level. There’s a switchable phono stage, headphone output, tone controls, a built-in DAC, more inputs than you could shake a cable at and support for just about every music format going (up to 32-bit/364kHz and DSD 256). And with a peak current output figure of 45 amps, there’s enough grunt here to get good volume levels from just about any speaker you’re likely to hook up.

Flexible neutrality

Furthermore, its beautifully judged tonal balance is about as neutral as they come, so you have the ability to mould your system’s sound to your tastes. The amp holds its own with kit even more expensive than this too, but we find a good balance in the PMC Twenty5.23 speakers, which are about as discreet and stylish as floorstanders get at this price. We find they work best with small- to medium-sized rooms, but with the

Parasound you have the freedom to move up the range if you need to fill a larger space. The 23s have surprising scale and authority for their size though, and complement the amp in their ability to deliver both subtle and larger-scale dynamic shifts with real enthusiasm. They’re tonally well judged, with a low end that’s meaty without being overpowering and a treble that offers plenty of bite. The solidity of these speakers adds some of the natural warmth that’s missing from the Parasound’s midrange too, with plenty of nuance, refinement and clarity all round. The PMCs help create a big-sounding system too, with excellent stereo imaging that renders an expansive soundstage stretching well beyond the speakers themselves – just keep them away from side walls and at least 30cm in front of the back wall for the best results. As for your source, you’re spoiled for choice with the Parasound’s plethora of inputs, but we like the Naim ND5 XS streamer for adding even further to this system’s flexibility.

It’s kitted out with just about every streaming feature worth having, including Tidal and Spotify Connect, internet radio and aptX Bluetooth, as well as its ability to sniff out NAS drives and laptops on your network with ease. Feed it a good hi-res track and you’ll really hear this system shine, the Naim capable of digging out excellent levels of detail and insight.

More than just detailed

It’s an exciting, engaging presentation too, dynamic in its handling of highs and lows, with the ability to go satisfyingly deep while still staying light on its feet. Timing is precise and the soundstage wide and layered. Bring it all together and the whole system just works, flourishing under its shared strengths and similarly flexible outlook. When you’re spending this much money on a system, you really want a result that sounds as effortless as this does. Three great products don’t always come together to make a great-sounding system, but in this case, it’s a match made in hi-fi heaven.

Or swap in one of these… ATC SCM19 `2,28,000

Roksan Caspian M2 CD `2,21,800

★★★★★

★★★★★

ATC’s reputation for making worldclass studio monitors is a big clue here. If you’d prefer standmounts to the floorstanding PMCs, the SCM19s are gloriously insightful, incredibly dynamic and as honest as the day is long, meaning the only risk is they might reveal flaws elsewhere.

The two lacs you pay for the M2 CD doesn’t go on features – it doesn’t double up as a streamer or coat itself in digital inputs, just as it won’t make you a cup of tea or negotiate the terms of your divorce. What it does do is play CDs better than anything else anywhere close to this price. Naim Supernait 2 `4,27,985

★★★★★ When Naim revamped the Supernait a few years ago, it removed the built-in DAC. This evidently left the company free to focus on building an even better integrated amplifier – the 2 is dynamic, detailed, rhythmically surefooted with a rumbling low-end. It bosses the entertainment factor too.

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 45


For Any Enquiry and Dealership: OPTOMA CORPORATION

Plot No: 21, 2nd floor, Gruhalakshmi Colony, Kharkhana, Secunderabad-500015, Ph: 040-40164442.


WHAT’S ON TEST? ATC C1 Dynaudio Emit 5.1

A speaker package should envelop you with classleading surround-sound. ATC and Dynaudio fight it out to see which is better

W

hen we say envelope, we aren’t talking final warnings from the gas company – the next few pages are devoted to the enjoyment of surround sound. The ATC C1 5.1 package recently claimed an Award in our highest-price bracket with ease – the British loudspeaker brand making light work of designing a high-end, but competitively priced, surround system with no discernable weaknesses, laying down a gauntlet for the rest. Yet Dynaudio is no David, its muscular Emit 5.1 package more like Goliath in this bout. Brute force isn’t its only faculty, but its indisputable brawn provides effective opposition to ATC. With both packages pushing the envelope in this enticing match-up, read on to find which of the pair gets our ultimate stamp of approval.

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S P E A K E R PA C K A G E S

M A CONSUMMATE TRIU

PH FOR SURE

ATC C1 `4,37,000 FOR Spacious and detailed; expressive, musical sound

AGAINST Nothing

★★ ★ ★ ★

Every now and then precedent counts for little – listen to almost every great band’s third or fourth album. Thankfully for them, and our eardrums, ATC’s C1 surround speaker package does its distinguished family proud. The set-up comprises four ATC SCM7s (which are standmount monitors sporting 25mm soft-dome tweeters and a distinctive 12.5cm mid-bass driver), a C1C centre (with a pair of mid-bass drivers), and the C1 subwoofer (boasting an impressive 31cm downfiring bass driver). Unless you’re a complete stranger to ATC products you’ll recognise the aesthetic. Our test kit is what ATC calls cherry (essentially light brown) but there’s also the option of black ash (black), and all in the company’s tidy yet undoubtedly smart, trademark style.

speakers. Thunder and flying arrows crack and sail behind us, while not detracting from the main action or dialogue. Our reference PMC 9.2.2 package consists of a pair of floorstanding speakers, but if we’re expecting these smaller units to be lacking in weight we’re pleasantly surprised by how rich these surround effects are. You’ll still require something bigger to fill a large room, but the ATCs have an impressively expansive sense of space. Despite not quite having the muscle to properly fill our largest listening room, the sound is anything but boxed in, giving a sense of scale and distance in tune with what’s happening on our projector. Given its smorgasbord of strengths, you may have expected us to begin by praising the C1C centre speaker. ATC says it’s designed to complement the SCM7s in the corners of your room, and it certainly shares their neutral, balanced tone. Even in the heat of battle, with a busy score and even busier list of sound effects, the edges are never edgy nor smoothed. It’s a presentation that has us almost forgetting to analyse and just becoming lost in the film. Perhaps the most important asset for any speaker, though, given it will be handling much of any film’s dialogue, is dynamics. We could probably have picked a more difficult film for the C1C’s exam, given over-acting in 300 is rife almost to the point of secondary-school theatre production, but nonetheless the level of expression is a delight. It’s easy to say the most important aspect of a film is its content, but poor dynamics will ultimately leave your characters sounding achingly bored which, unless you’re watching some mid2000s coming-of-age indie drama, is far from what your director intended. Essentially, it’s so much more an immersive experience if your speaker package can render vocal

expression as well as the ATC C1. A word on that C1 sub: it’s just about light enough for one person to lift without putting their back out, and packs more than enough of a punch that you won’t be suffering from bass envy. Rumbles are indeed rumbles – you can feel ships colliding through the soles of your feet, underlining that solid body of the rest of the package with authoritative weight. A dial on the front allows you to easily tweak the bottom end so you do, or don’t, annoy the neighbours. Whichever is your preference.

Invest in some stands

As this is a package built exclusively of standmount speakers, you’ll also have to shell out for some decent speaker stands. The curved backs of the corner speakers means you’ll be able to tuck them neatly into your front room. In terms of the physical, it’s an ideal package for any small- to medium-sized room. We put the C1 system on our Atacama speaker stands – the standmounters have flat wooden bases, so you’ll want to Blu-Tack them down for security – wire up to our Yamaha RX-V3060 AV amp and, having let them run in over a weekend, play a Blu-ray of 300: Rise Of An Empire. We are immediately drawn to the way in which this package integrates its

The C1 sub packs more than enough of a punch – you won’t be suffering from any bass envy

48 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

Being serenaded

We’ve mentioned dynamics, which the C1 package masters both in terms of quiet-to-loud and those more nuanced levels of expression, but ATC has also lived up to its unimpeachable reputation for timing. In this 300 sequel, much momentum is lost through its ridiculousness, but this package claws some of that back through the music. It’s exceptionally fast, building anticipation as we head into each battle and firing each arrow with uniform precision. This is not simply a product for home cinema. If you keep your stereo amp in the same space, or have a particularly accomplished AV amp, these SCM7s will be a welcome addition to your hi-fi set-up. Using the same Yamaha amp, we spin Lou Reed’s Transformer on CD and allow ourselves to be serenaded with tales of New York cross-dressing. It’s a wonderfully musical performance, with all you’d expect from a manufacturer of studio monitors. It could be bettered only by adding more dedicated hi-fi components into the chain. The highest praise we can give the ATC package is it has provided a match for our (considerably more expensive) reference system. They aren’t exactly on a par, but nor are they lacking in any department – their characters are equally appealing. In a room a little smaller than our test room, at the moment we can think of no better alternative for the money. A

“ATC has provided a match for our considerably more expensive reference system. Not exactly on a par, but nor is it lacking in any department”

KEY FEATURES

25mm tweeter / 12.5cm mid/bass

Biwire

Sub power: 200W


S P E A K E R PA C K A G E S

The ATC C1 set-up comprises four ATC SCM7s, a C1C centre speaker (top) and the C1 subwoofer

SYSTEM BUILDER says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND BUILD

PROJECTOR Sony VPL-HW45ES ★★ ★ ★ ★ ₨1,90,000 A projector that will stand you in good stead for years to come

BLU-RAY PLAYER Oppo UDP-203 ₨75,000 Oppo delivers a devastating first blow for Ultra HD Blu-ray

HOME CINEMA AMP Yamaha RX-A3060 ★★ ★ ★ ★ ₨1,94,990 Takes your home cinema experience to a whole new level

COMPATIBILITY

VERDICT If you’ve got ₨4.5 lacs to spare, and you aren’t trying to fill an auditorium, this speaker package is hard to better

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 49


S P E A K E R PA C K A G E S

E GETS YOUR HOME CIN

MA SHAKING

Dynaudio Emit 5.1 ₨2,89,200 FOR Muscular performance; good amount of detail

AGAINST Not uniform sound; centre speaker lacks expression

★★ ★ ★ ★

If history has taught us anything, it’s that those hungry for power are usually the ones least deserving of it. On the other hand, if you do fall into the power-hungry category and want to put it to good use, Dynaudio has made sure you can get some proper welly in your home cinema without having to remortgage the house.

tweeter and two-way crossover, but with two of the 17cm drivers to properly fill that grander cabinet. In the centre, a pair of 11cm magnesium silicate polymer drivers again flanks the same tweeter. Also included is a detachable metal plinth, which angles the M15C to fire up or down dependent on your favoured listening position. In theory, if you have a TV rack or similar already placed below your screen, this negates the need for a separate speaker stand. Setting the floorstanding M30s up as our front speakers and the M20s behind us, we plug in our reference Yamaha RX-A3060 AV amp and play the riotously funny Nice Guys on Blu-ray. We immediately notice the presence of a familiarly weighty performance coming from the M30s which, in conjunction with the SUB 600, assaults us with the full force of gunshots and car crashes.

isn’t superb. The similarly priced ATC C1 – our 2016 Award winner at this price category – benefits from having the same speakers in each corner, meaning it can offer a more uniform performance, the speakers complementing rather than competing with each other. However, with the Emit package, there seems to be a slight disconnect between the M20s, M30s and M15C, which doesn’t always allow for an entirely immersive experience.

Weighty performance

The Emit family replaces Dynaudio’s now discontinued DM range, and comprises a pair of large standmount speakers (the Award-winning M20), floorstanders (M30) and a centre-channel designed for home cinema use (M15C). There isn’t a dedicated subwoofer in the Emit range, but you can go for the Sub 250II (`59,900) or the Sub 600. As the company’s most advanced sub, its 300W amplifier powers a 30cm, forward-firing driver that promises to make your walls vibrate. Sporting a 28mm soft-dome tweeter and 17cm magnesium silicate polymer mid/bass driver specially designed for the Emit models, the M20s’ immense scale, energy and sweeping dynamics recently earned them a Product of the Year crown for stereo speakers. In our review of the M30s as standalone hi-fi speakers, we were pleased with their detailed, authoritative performance, though they didn’t quite hit the dizzy heights of their smaller siblings. In terms of specification, they’re similar to the M20s, with the same

Breaking bones

That’s not to ignore the detail on offer, however. The power and grit are pooled with genuine deftness, not just the will to smack you between the eyes. There’s a good job made of the film’s funk-drenched soundtrack, which moves as nicely beneath the sounds of rustling papers and clinking glasses as it does when people are having their bones broken and setting off good oldfashioned explosions. The M20s are particularly impressive as surrounds – that same insight and sense of timing and dynamics standing out, but unfortunately the package cohesion

KEY FEATURES

Floorstanding front speakers

Sub power: 300W

Absurdist humour

Overall, the package could do with a bit more expression. Our main gripe is with the M15C centre. It comes across as just a bit meek, allowing itself to be overshadowed by the sheer scale of the rest of the package. There isn’t a great deal of expression on offer either – voices lack the subtle dynamics that expose the deadpan deliveries and wit that are the basis of the film’s absurdist humour. As a little experiment, we replace the centre speaker with one of the M20s and suddenly the sound is transformed, recouping expression and adding the shot of adrenaline that energises the film. Neither does it seem overpowered by the combined strength of the M30s and muscular SUB 600. In the Emit 5.1, Dynaudio has put together a speaker package with much to admire. It certainly doesn’t lack for presence or detail, and could be more suitable than even the Award-winning ATC C1 speaker package for those with larger living rooms. At its best, it’s a true powerhouse that will have many home cinemas shaking.

30cm sub driver

“In the Emit 5.1, Dynaudio has put together a speaker package with much to admire. It could be more suitable for those with larger living rooms” The M15C centre, which is included in the Emit 5.1 package, benefits from a stable, solid support

50 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017


S P E A K E R PA C K A G E S

This is a hefty speaker package, and therefore ideally suited to a larger room – and partnering kit that can provide some serious welly

SYSTEM BUILDER says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND BUILD

TELEVISION Samsung UA65KS9000 ★★ ★ ★ ★ `4,40,000 Superb picture and sound from this pricey curved Samsung television

VIDEO STREAMING Amazon Prime Instant Video ★★ ★ ★ ★ from `499/year Extensive catalogue that’s geared to newer releases and 4K and HDR

HOME CINEMA AMP Yamaha RX-A3060 ★★ ★ ★ ★ `1,94,990 It’s our Award winner at this price for a reason - a stunning performer…

COMPATIBILITY

VERDICT Seeking a versatile, powerful speaker package to blow you back into your seat? You won’t go far wrong here

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 51


HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS

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February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 53


HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS

R PRICE HIGH TECH AT A LOWE

Arcam AVR390 ₨2,76,00 FOR Clear, crisp detail; Dirac functionality; stylish design

AGAINST A lack of scale and authority compared with some

The AVR390 is Arcam’s attempt to bring the performance of its high-end AV amps to a more affordable level. It has taken the unusual approach of using the front-end circuitry, pre-amp section and all processing straight from the rangetopping AVR850 in a bid to deliver top-class sound. To meet the price point, something had to give. In this case, it’s the power amp section and the power supply which Arcam has toned down to hit the AVR390’s price point.

vTuner Internet Radio and Spotify Connect available. You don’t have to spend long with the AVR390 to twig that Arcam has designed it to be simple to use. The smooth buttons on its face and centred volume dial feel of even greater quality than the controls on the Yamaha RX-A3060.

Conventional approach

The company has swapped the AVR850’s expensive and complex Class G power amplification for a more conventional Class A/B alternative. Accordingly, power output has gone down – from the AVR850’s 200W maximum to 80W (when driving two channels). The power supply is also far less elaborate in terms of capacity, and it’s because of these changes that this amplifier can provide all the major features of Arcam’s top product at only half the price. The highlight of the AVR390’s processing prowess is the ‘Dirac’ set-up software, which is designed to optimise your speakers’ performance in your listening room by accounting for room acoustics and the speakers’ design.

External software

The AVR390 doesn’t have the processing power on board to perform the initial calculations, so the Dirac software needs to be downloaded to your computer from the Arcam website. The process takes multiple readings around the listening position, and that data is then fed back into the amp. While you can go through this process yourself, we would recommend you let your dealer manage that side of things – the Dirac parameters can be adjusted manually, and the dealer’s experience should mean they’re likely to achieve the best results. Once you’ve got all that set up, you certainly shouldn’t be short of media to play on the Arcam. It supports MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, and MPEG-4 AAC at 24-bit/96kHz, and has HDCP2.2 and 3D. There’s also 54 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

★★ ★★ ★

“The sound moves smoothly from the front left of the soundfield, behind your head, eventually coming back around as Sully breaks the surface” The universal remote control is also sleeker than Yamaha’s, featuring an eight-second backlight whenever a button is pressed and multiple Device Mode keys that change the functionality of the remote based on its source, which is a nice touch. The AVR390 has seven HDMI inputs, a USB port, Wi-Fi and ethernet connection alongside the expected digital inputs and FM/DAB radio antenna. It doesn’t, though, have any inputs on its front. This keeps it The AVR390’s Dirac processing takes into consideration a looking sleek but number of factors when calculating room equalisation. Principal also makes it among these are the type of speakers the amp is working with, how far away they are, their level, and any problematic room effects that might need correction. Arcam says that, by default, room equalisation is not applied to any of the source inputs on the AVR390, so you’ll need to enable it yourself. However, the company does recommend trying to solve these issues directly through proper loudspeaker placement, acoustic wall treatments and changing your listening position first.

Sonic customisation

Round the back everything is clear and wellorganised. Much like the Arcam’s sound, in fact


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What the app can do The AVR390 can be controlled using the MusicLife app, letting you adjust the volume of the speakers and subwoofer, turn the amp on or off, and change inputs. A ‘Navigation’ tab lets you adjust menu settings and the four directional buttons found in the middle of the remote, while the ‘Media’ tab has the Play, Pause, and Skip buttons, as well as toggling subtitles. If you’re an app fanatic, and want to take control of your amplifier using your smartphone, Arcam’s MusicLife can be downloaded from the iOS AppStore and the Google Play store.

390 can’t quite capture all the emotion of either the surreal environment or the characters in the film. While the Arcam does a good job in bringing Pandora to your living room, the Yamaha does a better job of actually transporting you there. Changing to a more musical number, the documentary film of Michael Jackson’s rehearsals and preparation’s for This Is It, the amp keeps the King of Pop’s bouncing beats and high vocals nicely organised.

Easy living in harmony more difficult to plug in any extra video sources, such as a camcorder, quickly. If your neighbours are desperate to show you their holiday videos, you’re almost certainly going to be fiddling around trying to squeeze an HDMI cable into the back of the amp.

Sounds natural

Putting on James Cameron’s Avatar – a great test of an amp’s ability to convey the realism of alien flora and fauna – the AVR390 manages marine Jake Sully’s exploration into the forest with relish. In the fifth chapter, the Helicoradium spirale (a plant that looks like a biological series of interconnected horns) rapidly retracts into the earth – the AVR390 conveys the sound of each section of the plant clearly and with great definition. And when Sully sweeps his arm across the plants, and each one shrinks into the ground with an inrush of air and a sucking sound, there’s an enjoyably clear distinction between the start of the plants’ movements and their end. When the aggressive dinosaur-like Thanator attacks Sully, the noises as he

dips and dives between roots and across the grasses remain crisp and detailed – in his final leap to escape the beast into the waterfall and his plunge into the lake, the Arcam does a good job of conveying Sully’s immersion in the water by surrounding you with the noise of bubbles rising and the wash of his powerful arm strokes. The sound of the current moves smoothly from the front left of the soundfield, behind your head, eventually coming back around as Sully breaks the surface of the pool for air.

Express yourself

To its credit, the Arcam does deliver a very neat experience, but it isn’t as fun or expressive as the Yamaha, which recreates the underwater effect with more drama than the AVR390. What the AVR390 lacks, and the Yamaha provides, is greater scale and authority in its soundfield, something that’s powerful enough to make you feel as if you’re sitting on another world. The planet feels just that bit smaller coming from Arcam’s amp, and that means the

KEY FEATURES

Dolby Atmos 7.1.4

DTS:X ready

When it comes to stereo music and soundtracks, it’s easy to follow the harmonies of any track, and even in the more complex numbers that have a huge range of instruments, each one still remains clear, detailed and punchy. By the standards of the Yamaha, the results lack a bit of scale and punch, but it again remains an entertaining experience. The Arcam AVR390 is a capably organised amplifier that majors on clarity and reveals a lot of the detail in whatever it’s playing. But the competition here is tough, and the Yamaha shows just what can be achieved for the price.

4K upscaling/ passthrough

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT A well-designed amp with great detail and organisation, but it needs a touch more weight and dynamic expression

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 55


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A VERITABLE POWERHO

USE

Yamaha RX-A3060 `1,94990 FOR Breathtaking dynamics; power; immersive soundfield

AGAINST Remote control looks and feels cheap

Each titan has its rival, and in this instance Yamaha’s RX-A3060 is battling Arcam’s AVR390 for superiority in the home cinema space. Yamaha’s Aventage AV receivers are billed as the high-performance members of the family, and their premium status is evident straight out of the box. Free the RX-A3060 from its polystyrene and cardboard shackles and the amp’s 18kg body not only gives you a decent workout, it also helps cement the impression that this is a completely different beast when compared with Yamaha’s budget models. The amp’s chassis, legs and frame have been strengthened, while the amp also features Yamaha’s A.R.T. (AntiResonance Technology). This takes the form of a fifth foot attached to the bottom of the amp, which Yamaha claims minimises the impact of vibrations on sound quality. The look and the feel of the 3060 befit a higher class of amp too. The smooth, clean lines of the Yamaha’s aluminium front panel give it a graceful, not-tooindustrial look.

the Yamaha RX-A3060 doesn’t want for anything. It’s a nine-channel amplifier, with all the processing on board required to handle multiple zones of audio and multiple flavours of surround sound. Dolby Atmos in 7.1.2 and 5.1.4 guises and DTS:X are both covered – Yamaha

Hidden goodies

Push the bottom edge of the front aluminium panel and it drops down like a high-end drawbridge, giving you access to additional controls and inputs. Among these are an Apple-compatible USB socket, a headphone jack and an extra HDMI input (which comes in handy if you want to hook up an external source such as a digital camera). Both input and volume dials feel solid, and their slick action inspires confidence. The speed at which the volume rises or falls depending on the vigour of your twisting just adds to the user appeal. There are two different finishes to choose from. Our review sample is in titanium but, if you’d prefer something a bit more discreet, a more traditional black version is available. The only thing that lets the side down, in our opinion, is the remote control. It’s cluttered and feels like the kind of wand you’d get with a budget receiver, not a premium model. The lack of a backlight will have you fumbling around in the dark too. As you’d probably expect at this price, 56 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

★★ ★ ★ ★

“First there’s the faint whistle of the bomb. It hits and there’s an eerie moment of silence before the Yamaha delivers two gut-wrenching explosions” even has its own surround processing mode, Cinema DSP H3, which you can apply to these object-base surround modes or a standard 5.1 or 7.1 speaker set-up for a more spatial sound.

In the stream of things

Wi-Fi and ethernet are present, which helps turn the Yamaha into a hub for any streamed music in your house. AirPlay, Bluetooth and DLNA let you stream from smartphones, laptops and NAS devices. Yamaha also provides native One thing you can expect at this level is plenty of inputs, and the Yamaha delivers. Eight HDMI inputs are at your disposal (one on the front), while a couple of HDMI outputs allow the amp to beam a picture to a second screen. All HDMI connections are capable of Ultra HD 4K/60p and HDR passthrough. They are also HDCP 2.2 certified so there will be no handshake issues should you want to connect a 4K Blu-ray player. There’s also support for 24-bit/192kHz WAV and FLAC files as well as a built-in phono stage.

Copious connectivity

Anyone who wants more connectivity than this will probably never be happy


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What the app can do Because it is part of Yamaha’s MusicCast multi-room system, the RX-A3060 can transmit audio to a Bluetooth speaker or a pair of headphones. MusicCast lets you stream content from and to other Yamaha kit using the MusicCast Controller app. You can control the basic functions of the amp through the MusicCast Controller app (iOS and Android), or to gain in-depth access to the settings you can download Yamaha’s AV Controller app.

couple of short, sharp bursts of silence. Thanks to the Yamaha’s dynamism and control, it manages to balance it all perfectly, and places you within a more expansive audio space than the Arcam does. In such a large audio atmosphere, the quiet moments have just as much impact as the earth-shattering explosions. When Wolverine’s battling the Yakuza henchmen on the high-speed train, lesser amps can sound brash. The Yamaha, in contrast, simply sounds real.

You’re really hearing voices

support for Qobuz, which is good news for subscribers of the CD-quality streaming service. There’s also Spotify Connect, Napster and vTuner internet radio built in too. Yamaha includes its trusty YPAO calibration system and mic, which takes multiple measurements of your speakers from different positions to get the best set-up for your room. It works very well.

Modes of operation

It wouldn’t be a Yamaha surround amp without a wealth of processing modes to choose from, and on that front the RX-A3060 doesn’t disappoint. From Sci-Fi to Sports, a Church in Freiburg to The Roxy Theatre, you can tweak the Yamaha’s sound to match content or mimic a location. But to hear this amp sounding its best, you need to engage its Pure Audio setting, which switches off all unnecessary circuitry. Find a particularly fast-paced soundtrack (we watch The Wolverine from start to finish) and the difference between it turned on and off

is quite startling. The RX-A3060 sounds clearer, more detailed and even more dynamic. We’re big fans. The RX-A3060 is a wonderfully talented amp, and even during the brief 20th Century Fox opening sequence it manages to give you a small taste of its dynamic prowess. As the amp flicks through the pages of the Marvel comic it builds from slow and delicate, and ever-so subtly the pages start turning more quickly and with more vigour. The opening chapter of the film flashes back to Nagasaki, moments before the atomic bomb is dropped. The scene is high on tension and detail, and the Yamaha laps it all up. First there’s the faint, high-pitched whistle of the bomb hurtling towards the ground. It hits its target and there’s an eerie moment of silence before the Yamaha delivers two gut-wrenching explosions, followed by a wave of damage and destruction. As Wolverine tries to shield the Japanese soldier from the carnage, the sound of flying debris is punctuated by a

KEY FEATURES

8 HDMI inputs

Spotify Connect

Dialogue comes through loud and clear too. Whether it’s Wolverine’s grizzly bark or Mirako’s more gentle, soothing tone, the Yamaha captures the emotion well. The same can be said with music too. Play Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel over Spotify Connect or as a CD-quality stream, and the track’s beat sounds powerful and solid but never overpowering or too intense. It also manages to capture the fun, easy-going nature of the track better than the Arcam. The Yamaha’s powerful dynamics, vibrancy and expansive soundfield not only make its five-star status deserved, they push it ahead of the Arcam AVR390.

4K Upscaling/ passthrough

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND FEATURES BUILD

VERDICT The RX-A3060 is a seriously talented AV receiver. It has a premium price – and the performance to match

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 57


TE MPTAT IONS

Rear-firing tweeter sound exits through a flared horn via a damping chamber

Stereo speakers speakers || £6600 `7,00,000 Focal Sopra Sopra No.1 No.1 || Stereo Focal

“An astonishing amount of detail” FOR Refined Refined balance; balance; excellent excellent FOR resolution; superb treble; build resolution; superb treble; build

AGAINST Could Could do do with with AGAINST a bit more punch and attack a bit more punch and attack

★ ★★ ★★ ★★ ★★ ★

When two large, trunk-sized boxes When two large, trunk-sized boxes arrived at What Hi-Fi? headquarters, we arrived at What Hi-Fi? headquarters, we wondered how we could have misjudged wondered how we could have misjudged the size of the Focal Sopra No.1s so badly. the size of the Focal Sopra No.1s so badly. Expecting to review conventional Expecting to review conventional medium-sized standmounters, the medium-sized standmounters, the packaging suggested something the size packaging suggested something the size of a stout pig. of a stout pig. Opening the boxes reveals that Opening the boxes reveals that dedicated stands are included, one per dedicated stands are included, one per box. Mystery solved. They’re nice stands box. Mystery solved. They’re nice stands too, with thick glass bases, wooden too, with thick glass bases, wooden columns and metal top plates. They’re columns and metal top plates. They’re easy to assemble, stable and have given easy to assemble, stable and have given some thought to cable management. The some thought to cable management. The speakers bolt onto the stands, which speakers bolt onto the stands, which makes things pleasantly secure. makes things pleasantly secure.

for the focus and integration of the for the focus and integration of the sound. So far, so very Focal. sound. So far, so very Focal. Look beyond the rather predictable Look beyond the rather predictable headline tech details and you’ll find headline tech details and you’ll find there are also plenty of new things to there are also plenty of new things to consider. That inverted dome may look consider. That inverted dome may look familiar, but Focal’s engineers have had familiar, but Focal’s engineers have had a determined go at improving a determined go at improving performance by dealing with the performance by dealing with the compression effects of the air behind it. compression effects of the air behind it.

lacquered paint finishes (white, black, lacquered paint finishes (white, black, red and orange). red and orange). These Focals deserve top-class These Focals deserve top-class partnering kit, so we use Naim’s partnering kit, so we use Naim’s NDS/555PS streamer and the Clearaudio NDS/555PS streamer and the Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable as sources. Innovation Wood turntable as sources. The Gamut D3i/D200i pre/power The Gamut D3i/D200i pre/power combination delivers the grunt, with combination delivers the grunt, with Naim’s NAC-N272/250DR providing Naim’s NAC-N272/250DR providing back-up. Our phono stage is Cyrus’s back-up. Our phono stage is Cyrus’s Phono Signature powered by the PSX-R2 Phono Signature powered by the PSX-R2 outboard supply. Chord Company and outboard supply. Chord Company and Naim provide all the cables. Naim provide all the cables. These standmounters aren’t unduly These standmounters aren’t unduly fussy about positioning. We end up with fussy about positioning. We end up with them out into the room with a slight them out into the room with a slight angle towards the listening position. angle towards the listening position. Tonality is nicely balanced in this Tonality is nicely balanced in this position. No speaker that stands 43cm position. No speaker that stands 43cm high is ever going to deliver oodles of high is ever going to deliver oodles of deep bass, but the Sopras compensate deep bass, but the Sopras compensate with an impressive level of agility and with an impressive level of agility and precision at low frequencies. precision at low frequencies.

Familiar traits traits Familiar Anyone familiar with Focal’s high-end

Anyone familiar with Focal’s high-end Utopia and Electra ranges will note the Utopia and Electra ranges will note the similarities. There’s the company’s similarities. There’s the company’s trademark 25mm inverted beryllium trademark 25mm inverted beryllium dome – one of the sweetest and most dome – one of the sweetest and most capable tweeters we’ve heard – alongside capable tweeters we’ve heard – alongside a 16.5cm ‘W’ mid/bass driver. a 16.5cm ‘W’ mid/bass driver. The mid/bass cone uses a sandwich The mid/bass cone uses a sandwich construction with a core of specially construction with a core of specially designed foam between two sheets of designed foam between two sheets of glass fibre. This structure is designed to glass fibre. This structure is designed to deliver the speaker-cone Holy Grail of deliver the speaker-cone Holy Grail of light weight, rigidity and good damping. light weight, rigidity and good damping. Focal makes the drive units in-house, Focal makes the drive units in-house, so it has a great deal of flexibility when it so has a great deal of flexibility when it comes to fine-tuning the cone’s comes to fine-tuning the cone’s performance to match the intended use. performance to match the intended use. This is, potentially at least, a massive This is, potentially at least, a massive advantage over its competitors. advantage over its competitors. The cabinet is one of the company’s The cabinet is one of the company’s usual hefty affairs. Great care has been usual hefty affairs. Great care has been taken in getting the time-alignment right taken in getting the time-alignment right between the drivers, which bodes well between the drivers, which bodes well 58 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017 126 www.whathifi.com

Round the the back back Round The rear-firing sound is now fed into a

The rear-firing sound is now fed into a damped chamber before exiting to the damped chamber before exiting to the outside world through a flared horn. This outside world through a flared horn. This is what the grille at the back of the No.1s is what the grille at the back of the No.1s covers. Such a design not only reduces covers. Such a design not only reduces dynamic compression, but also improves dynamic compression, but also improves treble purity. treble purity. The mid/bass driver hasn’t been left The mid/bass driver hasn’t been left alone either. Its motor system has been alone either. Its motor system has been redesigned to reduce distortion, and redesigned to reduce distortion, and plenty of work has been done to the plenty of work has been done to the surround to help the driver deliver more surround to help the driver deliver more accurate results. accurate results. The 1’s cabinet does a passable The 1’s cabinet does a passable impression of a granite boulder. At 19kg, impression of a granite boulder. At 19kg, it’s heavy – and that figure pretty much it’s heavy – and that figure pretty much doubles when you add the stands. The doubles when you add the stands. The general level of finish is as good as you’d general level of finish is as good as you’d expect at this price, though we notice expect at this price, though we notice some minor paint flaws around the bolt some minor paint flaws around the bolt holes in the speaker’s base on our review holes in the speaker’s base on our review sample. There’s a choice of five finishes: sample. There’s a choice of five finishes: one wood option ( walnut and four one wood option – walnut – and four

The Sopra No.1s’ letter-box reflex port is sited underneath the cable terminals

KEY FEATURES KEY FEATURES

W cone bass driver W cone bass driver

Beryllium dome Beryllium dome tweeter tweeter

Stands included Stands included

A sweeter sweeter tweeter tweeter A We’re big fans of the sound of Focal’s

We’re big fans of the sound of Focal’s beryllium dome, and here it performs beryllium dome, and here it performs better than ever thanks to the work done better than ever thanks to the work done on handling the backward radiation. on handling the backward radiation. Highs sound open and refined, but still Highs sound open and refined, but still have enough bite to convince. have enough bite to convince. There’s an astonishing amount of There’s an astonishing amount of detail on offer, and we’re impressed with detail on offer, and we’re impressed with the way these speakers render the way these speakers render harmonically rich instruments such as harmonically rich instruments such as

”We’re big big fans fans of of the the sound sound of of Focal’s Focal’s beryllium beryllium dome dome tweeter, tweeter, ”We’re and here here it it performs performs better better than than ever ever thanks thanks to to the the work work done done and on handling handling the the backward backward radiation” radiation” on


T E M P TAT I O N S

cymbals. The sound is delivered with believable presence and crisp edges without sounding the least bit harsh. Listen to Here’s The Tender Coming from The Unthanks and everything clicks into place – the speaker’s midrange is spellbinding. It’s subtle, articulate and massively informative. The group’s vocals are handled superbly, the nuances delivered with considerable skill. We’re impressed by the natural presentation and the way the 1’s keep the instrumental backdrop organised and cohesive.

Expansive New World

Moving on to Dvořák’s New World Symphony shows off the Focals’ expansive stereo imaging and ability to layer a soundstage with precision. It’s a fluid presentation, informative and entertaining in equal proportions. Dynamics are good, the Sopras delivering low-level shifts with conviction.

Like every speaker of this size, The idiosyncratic larger-scale crescendos lack a bit of styling strikes you first, then you notice authority and reach, but you’ll need to move onto bigger, floorstanding models the solid build to get a notable improvement here.

Polite company

Play something such as The Roots’ Thought Is Like and the Focals don’t sound quite so comfortable. They’re a little too polite, lacking the punch and attack to draw us into the music. Rhythmically things are decent, but not quite able to latch onto this hardcharging tune with the grip it deserves. There’s no questioning the Sopras’ refinement though – they refuse to overstate the recording’s coarse nature – nor their ability to unravel the complex production without sounding too clinical. The Sopra No.1s are impressively sophisticated speakers. They’re refined, forensic and pleasing in their ability to

organise all that information effectively. Listen to classical or smaller-scale vocal-based music and the 1s are eloquent and charming and right up there with the finest speakers at this price. But if you like your music to have edge, and want some speakers that will get your toes tapping rather than just your brain engaged, others do better.

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND BUILD COMPATIBILITY

VERDICT The Focal Sopra 1s are impressively sophisticated performers, but they just lack a little bit of bite

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 59


TEMPTATIONS Shure KSE1500 | In-ear headphones | `tba

The amplifier pack is beautifully made. It features a retro knurled volume control and leather carrying case

“Unusual electrical demands” FOR Exceptional insight and subtlety; surefootedness; build

We’re no strangers to premium-priced gear at What Hi-Fi?, but even we took a collective gasp at the international price tag attached to Shure’s new range-topping in-ear headphones, the KSE1500s. In-ears have a hard time with perceived value at the best of times, but before you write these Shures off as an exorbitant luxury for those with more money than sense, take a closer look.

A technological first

The KSE1500s use electrostatic drivers. It’s the first time we’ve reviewed in-ears with this technology, and it gets us thinking that these headphones might be worth taking seriously. Electrostatic technology is rare, and for good reason. It involves a very light diaphragm loaded with static charge placed between two metal grids. As the music signal is fed to these grids, they vary in polarity accordingly, so causing the diaphragm to move. This movement is translated into sound. It may appear simple, but it’s difficult to engineer properly due to the high voltages involved. It took Shure eight years of development to get the KSE1500s to market. Why go to all this trouble? Because distortion levels are tiny and the signal response is fast, so a well-engineered electrostatic design will give you a more detailed and accurate sound than conventional alternatives, all other things being equal (which they usually aren’t). You do, however, need a dedicated amplifier. The unusual electrical demands of electrostatics mean normal headphone amplifiers just won’t work directly into the headphones. This dedicated amplifier 60 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

AGAINST DAC section could be more capable

accounts for a sizable chunk of the Shure’s hefty price. The amp pack is beautifully made. It’s solid and feels like a quality item. We particularly like the knurled volume control, and the display is clear, if a little small. There are two inputs – 3.5mm line-level connection and micro-USB. There’s also a digital-to-analogue converter on board, capable of accepting PCM signals up to 24-bit/96kHz (but not, sadly, 24-bit/192kHz or DSD). Delve into the menus and you’ll find equaliser functions. There are presets to boost bass and cut highs, even one to de-emphasise sibilance. There’s also the provision for fine-tuning these settings.

Suspend your judgement

We find these comfortable to wear. As with all in-ears it’s vital you find the right tips, and Shure provides a generous spread of sizes and shapes to provide the best seal. The leads also loop around the ears for additional security. Shure claims 37dB of noise isolation, and that rings true as we walk through our busy office or out onto a noisy high street. If you’re expecting to be blown away by the sound the KSE1500 makes then you’ll be disappointed, initially at least. These in-ears major on accuracy and detail resolution rather than impressing through lots of bass or emphasising punch. Our first reaction when putting them on is that they sound a little understated, but that impression soon changes as we discover just how insightful and well balanced they are. They’re wonderfully clean and clear without sounding either bright or forward. Their tonal balance is spot on,

★★ ★ ★ ★ in fact, and the transition from deep bass to the highest treble utterly seamless. Electrostatic technology’s inherent lack of distortion also makes them easy to listen to over long periods. Transparency is of the highest order. They reveal the natural warmth in the beautifully recorded Mount The Air by The Unthanks with ease. The lovely vocals come through with immense subtlety. There’s no shortage of nuance – these headphones deliver each change of intensity and emphasis with considerable skill. They communicate the dynamic ebb and flow superbly too.

Texture and organisation

Move to Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta and the Shures respond with wonderfully textured bass and an enviable ability to organise, even when the music is busy. All that insight is great, but it does mean that these won’t hide the flaws in the rest of your set-up. Use Savnn, for example, and you’ll find the results thin, hard-edged and lacking in subtlety. All this is through the line-level input – the DAC section isn’t as good, sounding thinner and less subtle. While these in-ears will work with phones and portables, you’ll really hear what they’re capable of only with top-end hi-fi sources. That’s the dichotomy of the KSE1500s: they’re meant for travelling, but the only way you’ll hear them at their best is with talented home gear. Is there still a place for them? We think so, simply because they’re so good. Calling these the best in-ears we’ve heard is selling them short. They’re among the finest headphones around, regardless of price or type.

KEY FEATURES + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Electrostatic drivers

Dedicated amplifier

Sound isolating


T E M P TAT I O N S

says

Rating ★★ ★ ★ ★ SOUND BUILD FEATURES

VERDICT The finest in-ears we’ve heard and arguably some of the best headphones of any sort that money can buy

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 61


OFF THE SHELF REFERENCE SYSTEM We use only the best ingredients in the making of this magazine. This in-house system helps us to evaluate incoming products with more insight and accuracy, so you always get the best tests!

Elac Discovery Server / Arcam UDP-411 Player

Denon AVR-X7200W

The Elac runs our entire music library on Roon while the Arcam spins Blu-rays and SACDs like a boss, with authority and ease.

BlueSound Vault

All our CDs get ripped and served by this elegant solution from the boys at NAD

Dolby Atmos out of the box and an upgrade to Auro 3D on its way, this is the most future-proof AVR we could get our hands on, yet.

Hegel H360

An integrated amplifier with (almost) no equal, this 250 w/pc makes buying separates look stupid!

PMC Twenty Series speakers

AudioQuest cables

Working truthfully between the various components, the DBSequipped line of cables and interconnects helps us see and hear without any anomalies

Using the Twenty5.26 as mains, Twenty.C for centre, DB1 Gold and Wafer 1 for surrounds, this speaker suite is the ideal blend of neutrality and musicality

REL S5 Subwoofer

The cleanest and fastest way to add real weight and dynamics to our system was to introduce the brilliant S5 to the music and multichannel mix. A true legend

Also part of the system: Samsung 75H6400 LED TV, Apple Mac Mini, Apple TV (Gen 4) Audirvana Music Player, Definitive Trinity Signature subwoofer


OFF THE SHELF

Sony MDR-Z7 headphones/PHA-3 DAC+Amp/NWA-35 music player | Hi-Res Audio system | ₨1,32,970

Knocking on musical heaven’s door FOR Build quality, dynamics and power, input options on the DAC, comfort For a pioneer like Sony, innovation was the de facto standard by which the company operated and while they seemed to have a minor blip in the recent past, this line-up shows they’re back. Hi-resolution audio is being fanned by audiophiles since a few years now but it’s only since 2016 that we saw any real marketing muscle being put behind the concept. Sony, with this launch in India, is pulling out all the stops and one look at the price tag for the whole system indicates that they’re not going after numbers, but wanting to prove their authority in the Hi-res audio ecosystem. The triumvirate of the MDR-Z7 headphones, PHA-3 DAC/headphone amplifier and the NWA-35 Hi-res audio player is a statement system that is designed to show what a healthy budget can get you these days. It may not be a cost-no-object system but it certainly isn’t something you would buy at the airport either. All the

AGAINST Music player feels rushed in execution, balanced inputs not RCA plugs

“just” a music player. It runs on a homegrown OS so forget about doing anything else with it except playing music. It does support Bluetooth on Sony’s own codec, said to be even better than AptX. NFC is on offer too if you’re too tired to push buttons but really, the USP of this bare bones device is to play hi-resolution audio files in their native bit rates and sampling frequencies without downsampling of any sort. It also offers EQ control, digital filter options to shape tonality and a plethora of settings that allow you to tune the sound to the content and your preferences. During our test, it froze a few times, which meant holding down the power button for eight secs and rebooting the unit. This could be down to the fact that this was a pre-release unit but it does lag even in response time with up to 3-4 secs between track and album changes. It has functional hard keys on the side that handle volume, track change and

The PHA-3 amplifier is clearly capable ofdecoding the highest resolution DSD files along with the power a 70Ω headphone like the MDR-Z7 demands. components feel appropriately well screwed together and solid, emblazoned with the ‘HiRes Audio’ logo that announces your arrival into the next generation of audiophilia. All three components are purposeful in their design and execution. Starting with the MDR-Z7, its magnesium metal ear cups and the leather headband give it a robust yet premium look and it also proudly wears the increasingly rare ‘Made in Japan’ badge. The oversized 70mm drivers are made of aluminium-coated liquid crystal polymer and are housed in a complex enclosure that is vented through two ports on each ear cup! This, being a closed back design, offers some amount of passive noise suppression but due to the ports, you definitely may need to consider your neighbour’s privacy. While it’s not the softest or plushest headphone we’ve ever adorned on our heads, it’s extremely high on comfort and fit, good enough for extended listening sessions. There’s even an option available to swap the standard balanced headphone cable to a higher-end specialist Kimber Kable if you really want to pull out all stops. As far as music players go, the NWA-35 is reminiscent of the early 2000’s MP3 players. It even wears the Walkman logo for a bit of nostalgia. Its 3.1in display is sharp enough but feels 2in too small for 2017, even for 64 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

play/pause controls while the other side has a MicroSD slot. The built-in 16GB of storage is obviously not going to be enough for the voracious Hi-Res Audio collector. Finally, the PHA-3 is perhaps the most purposeful looking device of the trio with clear audiophile aspirations expressed through its build and connectivity. USB, optical, aux and a proprietary input that interfaces with the NWA-35 or other Walkmans are your choice for wired connections and a regular 3.5mm along with balanced connections as outputs. It also has a gain control and Sony’s own DSEE-HX which aims to restore some of the lost spaciousness and fidelity from lower quality recordings (read: MP3), but we maintain our judgement that these are, at best, tricks to add sparkle by way of HF and really don’t and can’t improve what’s inherently lost in the encoding process. The PHA-3 is a portable unit, which means you could technically walk around the park listening to Day Breaks by Norah Jones in all its 96kHz/24bit glory. The volume control knob is a nice throwback to desktop systems, albeit miniaturised. The system as a whole is easy to set up and the sound quality is truly astounding. We recommend keeping the Gain setting to normal on the PHA-3 and all sound enhancements on the NWA-35 to the off

mode. Plant the MDR-Z7’s on your ears and it’s immediately evident that this headphone is made for musicality and is high on the fun factor. John Mayer’s latest single Moving On and Getting Over is a light-footed but brilliantly produced uptempo number that is played back with all its tight percussion and breezy guitar harmonies without ever feeling like a closed back headphone. It’s airy presentation is dynamic and well controlled, the 70mm drivers really showing their worth when it comes to the low frequency extension and attack. Sohn’s Conrad is explosive and articulate without ever sounding compressed or restrained. You might just want to play it on loop to revel in every harmonic detail pored through these headphones. It may not have the Audeze’s depth and last word on detail but it is definitely in the top echelon when it comes to delivering a punchy and powerful experience that is arresting and addictive. The PHA-3 amplifier is clearly capable of decoding the highest resolution DSD files along with the power a 70ohm headphone like the MDR-Z7 demands. They’re a great match together and even the NWA-35 fits right into the party but seems to be the most expendable of the trio, bringing little in terms of freshness or performance to the equation. Sure, it supports file formats and resolutions that no smartphone on the planet can, but it doesn’t have to look so 2005 while doing it, does it? It’s a pretty hefty sticker price if you wish to upgrade to the world of Hi-Res audio with this Sony trio but it’s also one of the most satisfying experiences you’ll have listening to music on your desk or even on the go, if you don’t mind the odd stare. Buy it for the music, not for the last word in accuracy or “reference” grade monitoring. This is the sound Sony does best – fun and musical.

Says VERDICT An expensive trio whose worth can only be decided by your listening habits and requirements. Perfect for creating your own little silo of music even on a crowded train TECH SPECS Type Closed-back Drivers 70mm Impedance 70Ω Frequency Response 4Hz-100kHz Storage 16GB Screen Size 3.1in FM Tuner Yes Weight 335gms (MDR-Z7) 230gms (PHA-3) 98gms (NWA-35)


OFF THE SHELF

Sony is back to what it does best – making great sounding hi-fi gear with quality first

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 65


OFF THE SHELF

Viewsonic PRO7827HD | Projector | ₨88,815

High-definition at a low price FOR Colour accuracy, flexibility in AGAINST Except excessive fan installation, affordability noise, not much at this price Viewsonic is no stranger to budget projectors, but the 7827HD straddles the space between home-cinema and office mode so well, it simply begs to be given a chance. Especially when you go through the spec sheet and realise it meets the REC709 colour standard, has an ISF calibration mode and even comes with a secret HDMI port that supports wireless HD streaming via MHLsupported devices. Finished in a premium-looking aluminium-like plastic shell, it’s a compact unit that comes with an additional back cover that could be used to hide unsightly cables hanging off the back of the projector. It even features some legacy connections like composite and S-video along with the usual VGA, USB, RS232 and monitor outs. Viewsonic has included a pretty competent 10w speaker in the chassis for the odd PPT with video clips and although redundant in the home-theatre domain, it reinforces the dual-sided nature of this projector. For its segment, the 7827HD might just be one of the most flexible to install projectors. Vertical lens shift, keystone and corner adjustment and a mediumthrow lens that will do duty on a 120in screen from a relatively short distance of 3mts. The Digital Zoom shift allows you some degree of control over the size of the picture, although take note that this will reduce the resolution, but can be a life saver if you have a fixed mounting

location that cannot be tampered with. New entrants into the big-screen league should have no problem navigating the set-up menu on the 7827HD. Easy to decipher and control, it offers a vortex into advanced ISF day/night calibration mode too, albeit with a password (provided in the manual). If that's too hardcore for you, even the basic Gamma and picture controls will enable you to get

"The animated superhit Zootopia looked rich and vibrant in the REC709 mode with no hint of colour banding or bleed" a respectable picture soon after it's out of the box. The REC709 preset works well too if you don't want to be bothered with all the technicalities. The single-chip DLP light engine is mated to an RGB sixsegment colour wheel that is great for maintaining consistency amongst the different video preset modes. The animated superhit Zootopia looks rich and vibrant in the REC709 mode with no hint of colour banding or bleed. It makes HD look so good, you tend to wonder how much better can UHD or 4K get, at least in the animated domain. Shift to a more demanding movie like Mad Max Fury Road: Black & Chrome Edition and

the contrast levels maintain great balance without squashing out much of the detail. The 2200 lumens is adequate, if not ideal, to make the viewing experience an involving one. If there's one thing that takes away from being completely engrossed into the make-believe world, it's the loud whirring fan in normal mode. Switch to Eco and it quietens significantly, but at the cost of light output. There isn't any pressing reason why we cannot recommend the Viewsonic 7827HD. For its price, it's a bargain!

Says VERDICT Cutting out the chaff and focusing on the essentials to get the picture right, this Viewsonic is one of the best projectors we have seen at anywhere near its price TECH SPECS

Handy size and even a laser pointer on the remote control!

Display Type Single-chip DLP Resolution 1920 x 1080, Brightness 2200 ANSI lumens Contrast 22000:1Lightsource Life 3500hrs Sound Built-in speakers (10W) Connectivity 2 x HDMI, 1 x HDMI MHL, 1 x S-Video, 1 x Composite, VGA in/out, 3.5mm audio in/out, RS232, USB Type A, Micro USB Dimensions (WHD) 12.44 x 8.98 x 4.08in Weight 5.7kg

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 67


OFF THE SHELF

Oppo UDP-203 | UHD Player | ₨74,999

4K Supremacy FOR Outstanding visuals and sonics, features and build Oppo’s latest doesn’t stop at the 4K spec and doubles up as a high-res music player with support for HDR+ and Dolby Atmos. This one is a region unlocked player and it plays 4K and Full HD Blu-rays (2D and 3D), DVDs and CDs along with DVD-Audio and SACDs. The player packs in three HDMI outputs and is armed with the the latest HDCP2.2 specification. Which means, it adheres to the BT.2020 colour gamut standard set by the UHD Alliance. While the Oppo UDP-203 supports the HDR format, support for Dolby Vision HDR will be added in the coming months via a firmware update. There's no support for streaming apps and in its defence, Oppo ensures the feature was dropped to keep boot times super quick and it does work. You won’t miss much anyway because your TV probably already supports streaming apps if you purchased one within the last year. We kick things off with the Blu-ray of The Dark Knight Rises and are immediately drawn into the action with the Oppo delivering a staggering amount of visual detail. The vast expanse of the opening scene is rendered beautifully with the perfect amount of green hues for the mountain scape, blacks for the outfits of the bad guys blowing up the smaller airplane and the skin tone on bane’s face with the mask. This player knows exactly how to deliver a jaw-

68 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

AGAINST None worth mentioning dropping visual extravaganza. Colours never look overdone, just the perfect amount that will have you reaching out to your 4K screen in awe. Talking of awe and 4K, the UDP-203 plunged us deeper into visual bliss as we played the Mad Max: Fury Road 4K Ultra HD edition Blu-ray. Inspite of the bleak future of humanity, everything from the desert to the skyscape to the explosions looked

"This player knows exactly how to deliver a jaw-dropping visual extravaganza" absolutely scrumptious. The player handles motion brilliantly, as director George Miller paints scene after scene of one of the most visually satisfying chase sequences. In close-up shots, skin tones appear realistic. The make-up on Furiosa’s face is dealt with absolute visual justice. If you happen to have a decent enough collection of DVDs, expect the UDP-203 to upscale it gloriously as it delivers a wallop of detail and rich colours. The player absolutely blows the aural senses too. Tom Holkenborg a.k.a. Junkie XL’s adrenaline-pumping score is handled with great grip and delivered with authority. The level of detail is crisp and both bold sonic pieces and subtle aural notes are delivered with most satisfying punch.

The rear panel is home to the choicest of ports to connect a plethora of devices Things do not dull one bit as you move to playing stereo music via your CD. You can play lossless hi-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz and multiple DSD formats all thanks to a 32-bit/384kHz DAC on the inside. What about popular music formats? Well, they are supported, too. Play The Weeknd’s Starboy and the delivery is ever rich and full of detail. Spin Off the Ground from The Record Company and instrumental sonics are delivered with enough bite to tingle your senses. Vocals too are handled brilliantly and overall the delivery is extremely engaging, yet again, packed with detail. We are thoroughly impressed with the Oppo UDP-203 and hopeful it won't leave our media room anytime soon.

Says VERDICT Brilliant overall picture quality, sonic prowess, build and feature list TECH SPECS Disc Type 4K UHD Blu-ray, DVD, CD Output Analog Audio: 7.1ch, 5.1ch, stereo. HDMI Audio: up to 7.1ch/192kHz PCM, up to 5.1ch DSD, Bitstream. HDMI Video: upto 4K UHD Connectivity 2 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x HDMI 1.4 3 x USB, 1 x Ethernet LAN, Dimensions 430mm x 311mm x 79mm Weight 4.3kg


OFF THE SHELF

LeEco Super 4 X43 Pro | Television | ₨TBA

Le Economy FOR Amazing picture quality, decent sound, value for money Coming in as an exclusive from the house of LeEco, the Super 4 X43 Pro is the company’s latest 4K telly to hit Indian shores. The younger sibling of the recently reviewed X55 fills in a very interesting gap in the telly market. While a 55in monster is generally too big for most, it is also pretty expensive if it’s a 4K panel. A 32-incher, on the other hand, leaves you wanting for a bit more real estate, and of course, there’s no 4K to be had. Enter the middle-weight 40-incher. Well, 42.5in to be precise. The telly itself looks gorgeous and is beautifully slim with a bezel that is minimal and gives an almost edge-to-edge look. Even the aluminium stands look smart and are pretty solidly built. What’s solid too is the picture the X43 serves up. Play a bit of 4K content from YouTube and it becomes apparent that LeEco isn’t messing around. We also stream an episode of Jessica Jones from Netflix and are greeted to a sharp picture and vibrant colours thanks to HDR. The colours don’t appear oversaturated and provide a near perfect balance of the palette. The skin tones and the black levels are superb for what is going to be

AGAINST Lack of popular apps, no physical navigation button a potential budget offering (we are expecting the pricing to be around the `40-45k mark). So, while it is established that you get a lot of picture for your money, that’s not all. Even the sound on the X43 is full of life. The lower frequencies don’t sound muddy and have enough definition even when pushed to eleven. The mids are decent too and the overall performance is not what we expected (in a good way). However, we wish LeEco had the generous spread of apps you’d normally find on say, a Samsung or an LG, but instead you don’t get much. Instead you are greeted to LeEco’s in-built apps, which, to be honest, aren’t all that great. There’s no YouTube as well and that’s a

The colours don’t appear oversaturated and provide a near perfect balance of the palette downer. We wished LeEco had a full spread of apps, but oh well, everything’s not perfect afterall. If you want a no-nonsense UHD panel on a budget (hopefully), look no further.

Says VERDICT The X43 Pro is a serious contender in the 40in market in terms of picture quality, but we’d want more apps TECH SPECS Display 42.5in Edge-lit LED Backlight, HDR10 Resolution upto 3840x2160pDynamic Contrast Ratio 4938:1 Connectivity Composite, 2xHDMI, RF, 2xUSB 3, VGA Dimensions 960x617x238mm (WHL)

Thonet & Vander Kurbis BT | Desktop BT Speakers | ₨14,999

Kurb your excitement FOR Great build, price, solid midrange performance Your average Bluetooth speaker won’t cut it? Need something slightly bigger with wireless abilities and proper stereo? Have a look at these Germans from Thonet & Vander. These desktop beauts fill the void between regular BT speakers and a proper amp+DAC set-up. The Kurbis comes clad in an all-black fascia made from HDAA wood. This obviously is of the high-density kind and prevents leakage and unwanted vibrations interfering with the listening experience (at least that’s what the brochure says!). The build feels solid for speakers that cost lesser than a JBL Pulse 2 and is pretty impressive. At the heart of it all is the 1in silk dome tweeter with a suspension ring that’s also made of the same material. Below that sits the 5.25in woofer that’s made from aramid fiber and hence possesses that vibrant yellow colour, similar to Kevlar. At the side of the master speaker you get volume, bass and treble controls to tweak them slightly to your taste. Connecting via Bluetooth is as easy as

AGAINST Some may find bass lacking, distorted when loud ever and our trusty HTC 10 is a good source. We play Dark Necessities from RHCP and the Kurbis impress us mightily. The emphasis is on the midrange here,

The higher frequencies are pretty well put forward as well and don’t sound jarring with crisp-as-chips vocals taking centre stage. The higher frequencies are pretty well put forward as well and don’t sound jarring when pushed hard. The bass, however, is a different story all together. Tonally, it doesn’t keep pace with the mids or highs and lacks in body too. The definition on the lower frequencies suffers when playing tracks like Tesselate by Alt-J. So, hip hop and jazz fans should look elsewhere if bass is the way. Overall, the Kurbis seem to offer very good value for money and are a great option if deep bass isn’t your requirement.

Says VERDICT The Kurbis cost lesser than some of the BT speakers out there and at this price, they’re a good option for your desk TECH SPECS

Power Output 60W RMS (30W + 30W) Frequency Response 50Hz - 20kHz Drivers 1in Silk tweeter, 5.25in Aramid Fibre woofer Impedance/Power 6 Ω 30W Inputs Bluetooth 4.0 & 3.5 / RCA stereo Dimensions 276 x 181 x 222 mm hdw

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 69


BUYER’S GUIDE

BUYER’S GUIDE

NOW WITH THE BEST BUYS IN EVERY CATEGORY

BEST BUYS HI-FI INTEGRATED AMPLIFIERS

74

CD PLAYERS

76

DACS

77

MUSIC STREAMERS

78

STEREO SPEAKERS

79

MULTI-ROOM SYSTEMS

83

TURNTABLES

84

WIRELESS SPEAKERS

85

HOME CINEMA

This is the definitive guide to the best home entertainment kit you can buy. From 75in TVs to smartphones, from portable Bluetooth speakers to Dolby Atmos surround-sound packages, here’s where you’ll find the perfect product, fast. INSIDE From wall-sized 4K TVs, class-topping CD players and transports, to speakers and amplifiers of repute, we have it all, in a whole new layout.

BLU-RAY PLAYERS

87

HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS

87

PROJECTORS

88

SOUNDBARS

89

SOUNDBASES

89

SPEAKER PACKAGES

90

TELEVISIONS

91

PORTABLE HEADPHONES

93

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 73


BUYER’S GUIDE

BEST BUYS

Stereo amps under ₨50,000

The only products worth considering

HI-FI

AMPLIFIERS

THE BEATING HEART OF YOUR HI-FI SYSTEM

Marantz PM6005 ₨47,900 The PM6005 is a multiple Award-winner for good reason. Nicely made, well featured and with refinement and insight few rivals can match. Power 45W Inputs 5 line-in, MM Outputs 2 x speaker, headphone

Onkyo A-9010 ₨30,000 Best stereo amplifier under ₨30,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Our favourite budget amplifier, this is arguably the most entertaining affordable amp around. It has agility and a wicked sense of rhythm. Power 44W Inputs 5 line-in, MM Outputs speaker, headphone

Arcam FMJ A19 ₨90,000

Stereo amps ₨50,000-₨1,50,000

Arcam’s entry-level amplifier is a terrific combination of sensible features, fine build and entertaining sound. Power 50W Inputs 6 line-in, MM Outputs Speaker, headphone, preamp

Cambridge Audio CXA60 ₨63,400

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best stereo amplifier ₨30,000-₨70,000, Awards 2015

This is a lively performer with expressive dynamics and a surefooted sense of rhythm. Build quality is impressive. Power 60W Inputs 4 line-in Outputs preamp, 2 x speaker, headphone

Naim Nait 5si ₨1,35,000 Naim’s starter amp is an exceptionally polished performer which combines drama with the insight and subtlety to match the very best. Power 60W Inputs 3 line-in Outputs speaker, headphone

Rega Elex-R ₨1,20,500 Best stereo amplifier ₨70,000-₨1,50,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Stereo amps ₨1,50,000+

Arguably the best-value amp Rega makes, with insight and the precise handling of rhythms that’s hard to better even at double the price. Power 72W Inputs 4 line-in, MM Outputs Speaker, preamp

Burmester 032 ₨17,79,221 An expensive product but feels it too. Plug the 032 into a system and it sounds lovely: top-class levels of resolution, authority and dynamics. Power 105W Inputs 5 line-in, MM, MC Outputs Speaker, ’phone, preamp

Mark Levinson No. 585 ₨13,60,800 Get past the cost of the Mark Levinson No.585 Integrated and you’ll find a startlingly capable product – one of the finest amplifiers on the planet. Power 200W Inputs 6 line-in Outputs Speaker, headphone

74 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

AWARD WINNER


AMPLIFIERS CONTINUED Naim Supernait 2 ₨4,27,985

Rega Elicit-R ₨1,90,000

Stereo amps ₨1,50,000+

A terrific integrated amplifier. It’s punchy, with a low-frequency performance that brims with authority. Dynamics are strong too. Power 80W Inputs 5 line-in Outputs Speaker, headphone, preamp AWARD WINNER

Best stereo amplifier ₨1,50,000+, Awards 2015 Rega’s top integrated builds on the qualities of its smaller brother, the Elex-R. We haven’t heard a more precise amplifier for the money. Power 105W Inputs 5 line-in, MM Outputs preamp, speaker

Roksan Caspian M2 ₨2,44,000 A supremely rounded product with solid build, classy aesthetics and a brilliant all-round sound that works well with all types of music. Power 85W Inputs 5 line-in Outputs Speaker, preamp

GamuT D3i ₨9,09,000 This GamuT D3i is a brilliant performer with excellent detail and superb transparency. It isn’t packed with inputs, but will cope with most set-ups. Inputs 3 line-in Output Balanced, single-ended DAC No

Mark Levinson 326S ₨9,10,000 Power amps up to ₨35,00,000

This classy unit has a refined presentation and a spellbinding sense of control. Construction quality is deeply impressive. Inputs 7 line-in Output Balanced, single-ended DAC No

Burmester 911 Mk3 ₨24,65,077 The 911 is a real powerhouse, capable of delivering high power into difficult speakers without struggling. Refinement is top class, as is build. Power output 535W Mono/Stereo Stereo Inputs XLR

Cyrus Mono X300 Signature ₨3,25,000 Don’t let the Cyrus’s compact casework fool you. This powerhouse delivers high volume levels with a pleasing dynamic punch. Power output 225W Mono/Stereo Mono Inputs Phono, XLR

GamuT D200i ₨11,28,000 The D200i combines transparency, muscle and agility better than any alternative we’ve heard. Build and finish are excellent. Power output 220W Mono/Stereo Stereo Inputs phono, XLR

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p70 February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 75


CD PLAYERS & TRANSPORTS

CD players under ₨1,50,000

CD transports under ₨1,00,000

GET THE RIGHT PLAYER AND CD CAN STILL SHINE Cambridge Audio CXC ₨39,800

AWARD WINNER

Best CD transport under ₨50,000, Awards 2015

If you already have a DAC – the CXC is useless without one – we wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this transport over a standalone CD player. Type CD transport Outputs coaxial, optical

Cyrus CD t ₨1,28,000

AWARD WINNER

Best CD transport ₨50,000+, Awards 2015

An exceptionally talented transport, the CD t offers a level of insight, transparency and clarity you’d struggle to find elsewhere at this price. Type CD transport Outputs coaxial, optical

Marantz CD6005 ₨47,900

AWARD WINNER

Best CD player under ₨50,000, Awards 2015

Marantz’s CD6005 is rightly regarded as fantastic player, one that offers sprinkles of improvements on top of its superb predecessor. Type CD player Outputs coaxial, optical, RCA, headphone

Naim CD5si ₨1,45,000 The CD5si boasts a full-bodied, winningly enthusiastic approach to music. The absence of digital outputs means there’s no upgrade path. Type CD player Outputs RCA, DIN

CD players ₨1,50,000 and above

Burmester 069 ₨51,54,435 If you can get past the massive price tag then you have a wonderful player that ranks among the best, if not the best, we’ve ever heard. Type CD player Outputs 2 x coaxial, opt, XLR, RCA Inputs coax, opt

Burmester 089 ₨22,04,752 A top-class player that requires a suitably talented system to shine, the 089 is one of the best digital sources money can buy. Type CD player Outputs coaxial, optical, USB Inputs coax, opt

Cyrus CD i ₨1,59,000

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best CD player ₨50,000+, Awards 2015

Cyrus says this player is its best-sounding yet, and after listening to how confident and entertaining it sounds, it’s tough to disagree. Type CD player Outputs coaxial, optical, RCA

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76 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

p70


CD PLAYERS & TRANSPORTS CONTINUED Cyrus CD Xt Signature ₨2,24,000 Looking for a top-class transport? The Xt Signature provides a sound that’s cleaner, crisper and more dynamic than its predecessor. Type CD transport Outputs coaxial, optical

Awards 2010

The Caspian M2 CD has been around the block, but it’s showing few signs of its age, showing skill with timing, dynamics and authority. Type CD player Outputs coaxial, optical, XLR, RCA

Roksan K3 CD Di ₨1,69,400 Few players at this price are as musical as the K3 CD Di. It promotes the character of your music, so you’ll never tire of listening to it. Type CD player Outputs coax, opt, XLR, RCA Inputs coax, opt

CD players ₨1,50,000 and above

Roksan Caspian M2 CD ₨2,21,800

Naim CD555/555PS ₨16,40,000 A CD player and a separate power supply, this might not look like much but there are few players better at revealing what’s on your discs. Type CD player Outputs RCA

DACS A DIGITAL-TO-ANALOGUE CONVERTER IS A MODERN HI-FI MUST Arcam miniBlink ₨13,800

AWARD WINNER

Best Bluetooth receiver, Awards 15

This receiver has serious dynamic clout, with a zingy and fluid rhythm. The 3.5mm analogue output means an adaptor is needed for trad hi-fi. Inputs Bluetooth Size (hwd) 2.5 x 3 x 4cm

Audiolab M-DAC ₨69,000 A good desktop alternative to the Chord Mojo, with plenty more sockets and features. Smooth balance, fluid dynamics and subtle detail. Inputs USB, opt, coax Size 6 x 25 x 25cm Res Up to 24-bit/192kHz

This tiny DAC/headphone amp remains one of our favourites for its USB-stick size and fine sonic talents. Clear, detailed with a fantastic sense of timing. Inputs USB Size (hwd) 6 x 2 x 1cm Resolution Up to 24-bit/96kHz

Chord Mojo ₨39,990

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

DACS under ₨1,00,000

Audioquest DragonFly v1.2 ₨14,700

Best DAC ₨40,000-₨80,000, Awards 2015

The majority of the Hugo’s performance for a fraction of the price. An enthusiastic performer that stays refined and superbly balanced. Inputs USB, opt, coax Size 2 x 6 x 8cm Resolution 32-768kHz/DSD 512

Rega Aria ₨96,000

NEW ENTRY

A phono stage of rare quality under ₨1,00,000 the Rega Aria will perform superbly – as long as the rest of your system is suitably talented. Type MM, MC Dimensions (hwd) 8 x 22 x 32cm February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 77


DACS CONTINUED Oppo HA-2 ₨27,999

AWARD WINNER

The range of inputs makes this ideal to use with any laptop or smartphone. The engaging performance and detail retrieval is remarkable at the price. Inputs USB, optical Size 16 x 7 x1cm Res up to 384 kHz, 16/24/32-bit

Chord 2Qute ₨1,19,000

AWARD WINNER

DACS ₨1,00,000 and above

The 2Qute’s insight, accuracy and dynamic punch outshine rivals with aplomb. The colourful display and the shiny chassis continue to wow us. Inputs USB, opt, coax Size 7 x 16 x 4cm Resolution Up to 32-bit/384kHz

Bricasti Design M1 DAC ₨9,49,000 This high-end DAC is impeccably built. There’s power, rhythmic coherence and dynamic punch, but it majors in analysis of the music. Inputs USB, opt, coax, AESB, HDMI Size 6x43x30cm Res to 352.8kHz

Chord Hugo ₨1,59,999

AWARD WINNER

The Hugo benefits from the genius circuitry informing Chord’s latest products. It has superb timing, remarkable clarity and plenty of power. Inputs 2x USB, opt, coax Size 2 x 13 x 10cm Resolution Up to 384kHz PCM

Chord Hugo TT ₨3,19,000 This ‘table-top’ version is the basic Hugo design, but supercharged. The finish is gorgeous, and it sounds better than its cheaper siblings. Inputs USB, opt, coax Size 5 x 24 x 23 Res Up to 32-bit/384kHz

Naim DAC-V1 ₨1,95,000 Naim’s entry DAC is typical of the company’s sonic signature, combining a balanced tone with strong dynamics and fine organisation. Inputs USB, 2x opt, 3 x coax Size 9 x 21 x 32cm Res 24-bit/384kHz

MUSIC STREAMERS

Streamers under ₨1,00,000

THE BEST WAY TO SHARE YOUR TUNES AROUND THE HOUSE Bluesound Node 2 ₨50,000 Looking for a non-amplified streamer to hook up to your existing hi-fi? The Node is back, and better, with improved design and connectivity. DLNA Yes Inputs Toslink, 3.5mm Storage No

Cambridge Audio CXN ₨79,600

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best streamer ₨50,000-₨1,00,000, Awards 2015

Building on the success of Cambridge’s Award-winning Stream Magic 6 v2, the CXN features an all-new design and improved sound. DLNA Yes Inputs optical, coaxial, 3 x USB Storage No

78 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017


MUSIC STREAMERS CONTINUED Burmester Musiccenter 151 ₨17,90,235 This multi-talented machine is a streamer, server, CD player and ripper, all wrapped in one superbly made chrome-laden box. DLNA Yes Inputs optical, coaxial, USB Storage 4TB

Cyrus Stream Xa ₨1,79,000 Best streamer ₨1,00,000-₨2,00,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Cyrus Stream XP2-Qx ₨2,69,000 An all-in-one music streamer that serves up an energetic, enthusiastic and immersive performance. Worthy of the sizeable asking price. DLNA Yes Inputs 2 x optical, 3 x coaxial, USB Storage No

Naim ND5 XS ₨3,00,000 Best streamer ₨2,00,000+, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

A forward-thinking design from an established hi-fi company. A brilliant sonic performance and a must-have if you’re after a do-it-all streamer. DLNA Yes Inputs USB, coaxial, optical Storage No

Music streamers ₨1,00,000 and above

The two-time Award-winning Xa is a corker. Its half-width design won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but its truly entrancing sound surely will. DLNA Yes Inputs 2 x optical, 3 x coaxial, USB Storage No

Naim NDS/555PS ₨11,80,000 Hear what this monster of a streaming machine can do and there will be no going back. Can afford the outlay? Lucky you DLNA Yes Inputs 2 x coaxial, optical Storage No

STEREO SPEAKERS THEY BRING THE MUSIC TO YOUR EARS – SO CHOOSE WITH CARE KEF Egg ₨39,000

AWARD WINNER

Best desktop speaker ₨20,000+, Awards 2015

Wharfedale DS-1 ₨16,500

AWARD WINNER

Best desktop speaker under ₨200, Awards 2015

Smart and terrific-sounding; if you’re after small, articulate, affordable desktops with Bluetooth streaming, you can’t go wrong. Size (hwd) 19 x 11 x 15cm Powered Yes Finishes 1

Sonodyne SRP 202 ₨27,830/ea Designed for professionals, the SRP 202 refernce monitor sound great and defy size with their output, detail and sounstage. Simply outstanding. Size (hwd) 34 x 25 x 24cm Powered Yes Finishes 4

Desktop Speakers up to ₨1,00,000

Our 2015 Best Desktop Speaker Over ₨20k have a distinctive design and flexible connectivity – and a stunning, consistent performance. Size (hwd) 27 x 13 x 17cm Powered Yes Finishes 3

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 79


STEREO SPEAKERS CONTINUED Sonodyne Sonus 3165 ₨25,000/ea

Floorstanders under ₨1,60,000

Housing a unique baffle and grill design and churning out great high fidelity output is what makes this charmer a powerhouse performer Size (hwd) 98 x 21 x 29cm Powered No Finishes 2

B&W 683 S2 ₨1,69,000 Tremendously talented speakers. We’re impressed by their power, scale and delicacy – they’re wonderfully versatile performers. Size (hwd) 99 x 19 x 36cm Powered No Finishes 2

Q Acoustics 3050 ₨75,400

AWARD WINNER

Best floorstander under ₨80,000, Awards 2015

Another 2015 Award-winner, and no wonder. The powerful 3050s are so talented, they give speakers closer to a lakh a run for their money. Size (hwd) 100 x 20 x 30cm Powered No Finishes 5

Q Acoustics Concept 40 ₨1,27,000 If you want a talented set of speakers with an easy-going, welcoming sound, you must consider these. Size (hwd) 97 x 17 x 29cm Powered No Finishes 2

Tannoy Revolution XT 6F ₨1,41,000

AWARD WINNER

Best floorstander ₨80,000-₨1,50,000, Awards 2015

These Tannoys are something special – they fire out an infectious, entertaining sound that charms us. Superbly finished, too. Size (hwd) 100 x 27 x 32cm Powered No Finishes 2

Tannoy Revolution XT 8F ₨1,89,500

Floorstanders ₨1,60,000 and above

Few rivals will be able to match this combination of muscle and subtlety. Most of all they make listening to music fun. Size (hwd) 108 x 32 x 35cm Powered No Finishes 2

ATC SCM40A ₨6,99,000 The price looks steep but factor in built-in amplification and exceptional sound, and the SCM40As emerge as something of a high-end bargain. Size (hwd) 98 x 37 x 34cm Powered Yes Finishes 2

Focal Electra 1038Be ₨8,99,999 A hefty slice of the performance of Focal’s high-end Utopia range, at a fraction of the cost. Impressive detail, dynamics, bass and timing. Size (hwd) 125 x 30 x 40cm Powered No Finishes 2

PMC Twenty 23 ₨3,12,200 These PMCs show real class, serving up sound that’s both refined and exciting. The 23s stand on their clean insight and unfussy nature. Size (hwd) 92 x 15 x 33cm Powered No Finishes 4

PMC Twenty 26 ₨7,72,686* This range of speakers hardly puts a foot wrong. Here, it’s the insightful yet refined balance and impressive levels of detail that win the day. Size (hwd) 109 x 19 x 44cm Powered No Finishes 4

80 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017


STEREO SPEAKERS CONTINUED ProAc Response D40/R ₨6,33,000 As musical as they come, these are also as articulate, transparent and dynamic as any floorstander we’ve heard around this price. Size (hwd) 120 x 21 x 34cm Powered No Finishes 6

Spendor A6R ₨2,97,000

AWARD WINNER

Best floorstander over ₨1,50,000, Awards 2015

Spendor D7 ₨4,12,000 When it comes to insight and precision, these floorstanders set the standard at this price. Unfussy, and they deliver a huge sound for their size. Size (hwd) 95 x 20 x 32cm Powered No Finishes 6

Tannoy Kensington GR ₨12,80,000 Along with that traditional appearance comes real substance. These are gentle giants, balancing finesse with force in a mighty appealing way. Size (hwd) 110 x 41 x 34cm Powered No Finishes 2

Floorstanders ₨1,60,000 and above

Musical notes have dimension and depth, and vocals are conveyed with reality and emotion. Outstanding. Size (hwd) 87.5 x 19 x 28cm Powered No Finishes 5

Triangle Signature Delta ₨5,60,000 Terrific timing ability combines with strong dynamics and impressive resolution to produce speakers that can stand toe-to-toe with the best. Size (hwd) 123 x 37 x 39cm Powered No Finishes 3

Dali Zensor 1 ₨24,000 If you’re looking for a versatile, energetic pair of affordable speakers, give these a listen. They have a real feel for the the music. Good fun. Size (hwd) 27 x 16 x 22cm Powered No Finishes 2

Dali Zensor 3 ₨34,500

Monitor Audio Bronze 2 ₨42,000

AWARD WINNER

Best standmounter ₨30,000-₨45,000, Awards 2015

For their size, these Monitor Audio Bronze 2 dig deep in the bass. They’re tonally balanced and impressively detailed too. Size (hwd) 35 x 19 x 26cm Powered No Finishes 4

Q Acoustics 3020 ₨28,900

AWARD WINNER

Standmounters under ₨50,000

If they’re made by Dali, they’re going to be fun to listen to. These classy-looking speakers have plenty of punch and winning dynamics. Size (hwd) 35 x 21 x 29cm Powered No Finishes 3

Best stereo speaker under ₨30,000, Awards 2015

These lovingly constructed boxes deliver an exceptional combination of refinement, insight and dynamics. We can’t fault them. Size (hwd) 26 x 17 x 23cm Powered No Finishes 5

Q Acoustic Concept 20 ₨43,000 If you want a top-quality, sub-₨50K standmounter you ignore this one at your peril. Clarity and refinement shine through in abundance. Size (hwd) 26 x 17 x 28cm Powered No Finishes 2 February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 81


STEREO SPEAKERS CONTINUED B&W 685 S2 ₨69,000

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Product of the Year, Awards 2015

Standmounters ₨50,000 - ₨1,20,000

Put simply, the 685 S2s are superb. Hugely entertaining, with power, punch and excellent detail retrieval. Size (hwd) 35 x 19 x 32cm Powered No Finishes 2

KEF LS50 ₨1,10,000 These striking speakers are blindingly good. Get their partnering kit right and you’ll revel in the excellent bass, energy and fine articulation. Size (hwd) 30 x 20 x 28cm Powered No Finishes 1

Martin Logan Motion 15 ₨78,000 A talented and fun pair of speakers. We particularly like the lively, natural presentation, even if the low end could do with more punch. Size (hwd) 29 x 13 x 24cm Powered No Finishes 2

Triangle Esprit Titus EZ ₨78,500 Your hunt to find a supplier for the Esprits might take a while, but it will be worth it for the articulate and agile presentation you’ll hear. Size (hwd) 31 x 17 x 27cm Powered No Finishes 3

ATC SCM11 (2013) ₨1,42,000 Best standmounter ₨80,000-₨1,50,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

These are the most talented standmounters anywhere near this price. The transparency of their sound compares with far more expensive rivals. Size (hwd) 38 x 21 x 25cm Powered No Finishes 2

Standmounters ₨1,20,000 - ₨2,50,000

Dynaudio Xeo 4 ₨2,40,000 The active Xeo 4s (they have built-in amps) offer hassle-free set-up and an insightful, musical sound from almost any source. High-res support, too. Size (hwd) 28 x 17 x 25cm Powered Yes Finishes 2

Neat Motive SX3 ₨1,50,000 If you’re tight on space, or don’t need an overpowering sound, these articulate, fun-loving speakers should be a shoo-in for your shortlist. Size (hwd) 33 x 16 x 20cm Powered No Finishes 4

ProAC Studio 118 ₨1,25,000 Weighty, detailed bass, lively treble and a good natural balance overall. The energy of the 118’s performance will provide hours of enjoyment. Size (hwd) 38 x 19 x 24cm Powered No Finishes 4

ATC SCM19 ₨2,28,000

AWARD WINNER

Best standmounter ₨1,50,000+, Awards 2015

₨2,50,000+

It’s quite a trick for a speaker to be highly analytical with music yet never sound clinical or passionless. And yet so it is with the SCM19s. Size (hwd) 44 x 27 x 30cm Powered No Finishes 2

PMC Twenty 22 ₨2,80,000 Solid build and a quality finish are just the start; it’s a big, authoritative sound, perfect for those who like a natural kind of presentation. Size (hwd) 41 x 18 x 37cm Powered No Finishes 4

82 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017


SYSTEMS SIMPLE DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN LOWER QUALITY Multi-room systems up to ₨1,00,000

Sonos System From ₨26,500

AWARD WINNER

Best multi-room system under ₨50,000, Awards 2015

If you don’t need high-res, Sonos is an obvious choice for multi-room. A great user experience alongside a full-bodied, insightful sound. Res 16-bit/44.1kHz App Mac, Android Formats MP3, iTunes Plus, WMA

Bluesound Generation 2 From ₨35,000

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best multi-room system over ₨50,000, Awards 2015

Bluesound’s Generation 2 has a more streamlined design and sounds as good as ever, offering high-res support and good connectivity. Res 24-bit/192kHz App iOS, Android Formats MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG

Best music system ₨50,000-₨80,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Stereo systems under ₨50,000

Cambridge Audio Minx Xi ₨51,300

This terrific system is a joy to use. It has a 24-bit/96kHz resolution limit, but that’s OK in light of its articulate and hugely likeable character. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Streaming, internet

Denon D-M40DAB ₨49,900

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best music system under ₨50,000, Awards 2015

Denon continues to reign supreme on the micro-systems front. There are no Bluetooth or wireless features, but the sound makes up for it. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources CD, streaming, DAB, FM

Stereo systems ₨50,000+

Cyrus Streamline 2 ₨1,73,000 Cyrus expertly combines hi-fi credentials and streaming features with ease. The superb sound quality is second to none at this price. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Streaming, internet

Naim UnitiQute 2 ₨1,60,000

AWARD WINNER

Best music system ₨80,000-₨2,00,000, Awards 2015

The epitome of a modern streaming system. The insightful, rhythmically precise, spacious sound is tremendous – and worth the high-end price. Inputs Analogue & digital Sources Streaming, internet, DAB+, FM

Systems jargon buster UPnP Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a series of protocols that allow devices easily to discover and communicate with each other over a network to share information.

DLNA DLNA focuses on media formats and management, allowing content (video, audio, pictures, etc) to be shared across devices, with the user able to manage said files. Most DLNA tagged devices are UPnP capable too.

CD-quality CD-quality refers to the resolution of an audio CD, which is 16-bit/44.1kHz. CD-quality should not be confused with high resolution audio.

High resolution High-resolution audio has a higher sampling frequency and bit rate than CD-quality audio. Hi-res files tend to use a range of sampling rates, the most common being 96kHz and 192kHz at 24-bit.

NAS NAS – Network Attached Storage – is an intelligent storage device. Content stored on a NAS can be accessed through a media streamer via a network.

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 83


TURNTABLES DECKS TO KEEP THE VINYL REVIVAL THRIVING

Turntables under ₨50,000

Pro-Ject Elemental ₨24,000 As plug-in-and-play as you’re likely to find, this is a quality entry-level record player for those taking their first steps in the world of vinyl. Speed 33.3 & 45rpm Size (hwd) 9 x 43 x 30cm

Pro-Ject Essential II ₨33,000 Best turntable under ₨40,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

A frill-free, entry-level product that gets all the basics spot-on. Easy to set up and even easier to enjoy, it’s an obvious Award-winner. Speed 33.3 & 45rpm Size (hwd) 14 x 46 x 36cm

Rega RP1 ₨36,000 The unadorned RP1 is an impressive turntable in its own right, with a good sense of drive and pleasing transparency. Speed 33.3 & 45rpm Size (hwd) 12 x 45 x 36cm

Clearaudio Concept ₨94,600

Turntables ₨50,000-₨1,00,000

Best turntable ₨80,000+, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

A thoroughly sorted, easy-to-own package with tremendous sound, combining punch, extension and tonal variation in equal measure. Speed 33.3, 45, 78rpm Size (hwd) 14 x 42 x 35cm

Pro–Ject 1 Xpression Carbon ₨75,000 The Pro-Ject 1 Xpression Carbon UKX is a terrific package for the price; it is balanced and insightful, rivalling the class-leaders in overall ability. Speed 33.3, 45rpm Size (hwd) 13 x 42 x 34cm

Rega RP3/Elys2 ₨72,000

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best turntable ₨40,000-₨80,000, Awards 2015

Turntables ₨1,00,000 and above

Few rivals are as fuss-free or sound so good, building on the balance, resolution and excitement of prior generations while adding more clarity. Speed 33.3, 45rpm Size (hwd) 10 x 45 x 36cm

Rega RP6/Exact ₨1,35,000 The RP6’s simple styling belies its engaging, detailed sound. One of the most expressive and enthusiastic turntables you can buy for the money. Speed 33.3, 45rpm Size (hwd) 12 x 45 x 36cm

Rega RP8/Apheta ₨2,97,000 A terrific turntable that sets standards at the price. A detailed sound delivered with superb agility, strong dynamics and exceptional precision. Speed 33.3, 45rpm Size (hwd) 12 x 45 x 36cm

84 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017


WIRELESS SPEAKERS CONTINUED

WIRELESS SPEAKERS FREE YOUR MUSIC WITH ONE OF THESE STREAMING WONDERS Audio Pro Addon T3 ₨29,999

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best portable wireless speaker ₨20,000-₨30,000, 2015

This classy boombox from Audio Pro ignores gimmicks and focuses on delivering the best sound possible for an extremely tempting price. Size (hwd) 12 x 22 x 14 Battery Yes

Cambridge Audio Go ₨12,500 Awards 2014 Wireless speakers under ₨30,000

Few wireless speakers offer such a great combination of build quality, battery life and enjoyable performance as this former Award-winner. Size (hwd) 24 x 12 x 6cm Battery Yes

JBL Xtreme ₨24,990 The Xtreme delivers all the power suggested by its brutish physique, but is also capable of great subtlety and insight. Powerful and portable. Size (hwd) 13 x 28 x 12cm Battery Yes

Monitor Audio Airstream S150 ₨15,500

AWARD WINNER

Best mains-powered wireless speaker under ₨20,000, Awards 2015

Ultimate Ears Roll ₨8,495

£300-£500

The Airstream S150 boasts impressive clarity and detail with solid, weighty bass and an agile and dynamic delivery. Size (hwd) 27 x 12 x 14cm Battery No AWARD WINNER

Best portable wireless speaker under ₨10,000, Awards 2015

Super-portable, waterproof and with great sound, the Roll is the ideal on-the-go companion. We haven’t heard better for less than a ton. Size (hw) 4 x 14cm Battery Yes

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Wireless speakers ₨50,000+

Wireless speakers ₨30,000-₨50,000

WIRELESS SPEAKERS CONTINUED KEF Muo ₨35,000

AWARD WINNER

Best portable wireless speaker ₨20,000, Awards 2015

The Muo brings a touch of luxury with its detailed musical performance and great looks. You won’t get better without going mains-powered. Size (hwd) 8 x 21 x 6cm Battery Yes

Q Acoustics Q-BT3 ₨43,000 Few products are as versatile as these for the price: wireless speakers, soundbar replacement, iPod dock or powered stereo speakers. Size (hwd) 31 x 19 x 24cm Battery No

B&W Zeppellin Wireless ₨67,000 Eight years on, the Zeppelin speaker is still a must-have for the audiophile who wants fine sound in a convenient package. Size (hwd) 18 x 66 x 18cm Battery No

Naim Mu-So ₨1,35,000

AWARD WINNER

Best mains-powered wireless speaker ₨80,000+, Awards 2015

The Mu-so has a rich, powerful sound, a huge sense of scale and soaring dynamics – and it’s now been updated to accommodate Tidal. Size (hwd) 12 x 63 x 26cm Battery No

Getting the most out of your wireless speaker

Wireless tech explained The most used wireless transmission methods tend to be the following: aptX Bluetooth, regular Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay and Kleer (used by Arcam). AirPlay is Apple’s proprietary solution and works only with Apple devices. Bluetooth, and its higherquality aptX variant, will work with any Bluetoothcompatible device, while Kleer requires a dongle. If it were our money, we would opt for one of the Bluetooth variants – it’s versatile and the quality is fine, albeit lower than with a wired connection.

86 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

How much should you spend? This all depends on what you want your dock to do. If you fancy something to take to the park for picnics, then you’d want to consider a unit that has a good battery life. If you’re replacing a micro or mini system, then something like the B&W Zeppelin Wireless will do a commendable job. As ever, try before you buy, especially if you’re heading towards the premium range. A good tip is to take your library with you to the dealer/ retailer and play some of the greatest hits straight from your portable.

Choose the right file type Whichever one you go for, and especially if you’re connecting your device, it’s important to supply the dock with a high enough quality file. We find that 320kbps is as low as we’d go with MP3 files, with Apple Lossless, FLAC or uncompressed WAV far more preferable. If you use an Apple device, and use WAV files on your computer but don’t have space for them on your portable, iTunes has a handy option to sync slightly lower-quality versions of your tracks to your device.

Instant multi-room music If you’re looking to build a multi-room system, you’re in luck. Some docks won’t be able to play music on more than one device at a time (unless you have more than one which can stream to each other), but it does mean you can simply select each device on your portable as you move between rooms and have your music instantly switch between docks. Alternatively, you could fork out for a Sonos system – but that isn’t really the point. Wireless docks mean minimal set-up – always a bonus.


BUYER’S GUIDE

BEST BUYS

HOME CINEMA

The only products worth considering

BLU-RAY PLAYERS

ENJOY HIGH-DEF MOVIE THRILLS

Marantz UD7007 ₨72,900

AWARD WINNER

Cambridge Audio CXU ₨1,25,600

AWARD WINNER

Best Blu-ray player ₨30,000+, Awards 2015

A universal disc-player, packed with features and connections, that pushes the boundaries with both picture and sound quality. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD

Oppo BDP-105D ₨1,29,999

Blu-ray players ₨30,000 and above

A 2013 Awards winner, this is a solidly made machine that performs to a very high standard. If you have the right system, it’s a terrific buy. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD

It might seem a lot for a disc player, but if you want a quality component that’s as adept with music as it is with movies, you’ll want this. Top class. Compatibility Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD

HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS STUNNING SOUND THAT TRULY BRINGS MOVIES TO LIFE Denon AVR-X2200W ₨73,900

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best home cinema amplifier ₨50K-₨70K, Awards 2015

Our AV amp Product of the Year is an articulate and detailed amp, with stacks of functionality and future-proofing. Packed with features. Power 7 x 95W Dolby Atmos Yes AWARD WINNER

Best home cinema amplifier ₨70K-₨1Lac, Awards 2015

In the sweet spot of balancing price, features and performance, this has a hugely entertaining combination of power and precision. Power 7 x 100W Dolby Atmos Yes

Yamaha RX-V679 ₨59,990 No Dolby Atmos but Yamaha does offer a big, spacious sound with decent detail and balance, though some others are more nuanced. Power 7 x 90W Dolby Atmos No

AV amplifiers ₨50,000-₨1,00,000

Yamaha RX-A850 ₨93,990

Marantz NR1606 ₨81,900 Equipped with multi-zone and multi-source capability, this AVR can power a home-theatre and stereo setup simultaneously. Power 7 x 90W Dolby Atmos Yes

February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 87


HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS CONTINUED

HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIERS AV amplifiers ₨1,00,00 and above

STUNNING SOUND THAT TRULY BRINGS MOVIES TO LIFE Onkyo TX-NR3030 ₨1,90,000 Looking for high-end, high-quality surround audio? This amp delivers with a spacious, subtle sound, a plethora of features and Dolby Atmos. Power 11 x 185W Atmos Yes

Pioneer SC-LX59 ₨1,32,000

AWARD WINNER

Best home cinema amplifier ₨1,00,000+, Awards 2015

The SC-LX59 makes it six ₨1,00,000+ Awards in a row for Pioneer. This latest offering is better than ever, making it a class-leading receiver. Power 9 x 140W Atmos Yes

PROJECTORS

Projectors ₨1,50,000 and above

Under ₨1.5lac

BECAUSE A MASSIVE PICTURE IS HOME CINEMA BenQ W1080ST+ ₨1,25,000 Best projector under ₨1,50,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

This short-throw projector can sit less than six feet from the screen at max zoom – and looks brilliant thanks to its crisp, eye-catching pic. Throw ratio 0.69-0.83:1 Inputs 2 x HDMI, component Speakers Yes

Epson EH-TW7200 ₨1,80,000

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best projector ₨1,50,000-₨2,50,000, Awards 2015

Versatile and easy to set up, this one raises the bar for picture quality in the sub-₨2lacs arena with its realistic, subtle and punchy performance. Throw ratio 1.34-2.87:1 Inputs 2 x HDMI, component Speakers No

Sony VPL-HW55ES ₨3,16,667 Best projector ₨2,50,000+, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

This well-specified Sony produces a very natural picture that’s precisely crisp and bright, and demonstrates exemplary contrast. Brilliant. Throw ratio n/a Inputs 2 x HDMI, component Speakers No

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SOUNDBARS AN IMPRESSIVE WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR TV’S SOUND Under ₨50,000

Q Acoustics Media 4 ₨45,000

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best soundbar under ₨50,000, Awards 2015

Q Acoustics’ debut soundbar is remarkable value – even more so at its reduced price – and more than worthy of its two-time PoY status. Size (hwd) 9 x 100 x 14cm Inputs Optical, RCA Subwoofer No

Best soundbar ₨50,000+, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Soundbars ₨50,000 and above

Dali Kubik One ₨1,05,000

A gorgeous and complete package, Dali’s debut soundbar impresses with its hugely engaging sound and smart, well-equipped exterior. Size (hwd) 15 x 98 x 10cm Inputs Optical, 2 x RCA Subwoofer No

Philips Fidelio B5 ₨54,990 Thanks to two detachable (wireless, battery-powered) speakers, it can add surround sound or be a multi-room system. Great sound, too. Size 7 x 104 x 16cm Inputs 2 x HDMI, optical, coax, RCA Sub Yes

SOUNDBASES AN ALTERNATIVE SOURCE OF SUPERIOR TV SOUND Soundbases under ₨30,000- ₨70,000

Cambridge Audio TV5 ₨37,100 The TV5 shares its TV2 sibling’s rich presentation, but with an extra driver and bigger chassis there’s better detail, clarity and dynamics. Size (hwd) 10 x 73 x 34cm Inputs Optical

Canton DM55 ₨69,000 Best soundbase under ₨70,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Replacing the DM50, the cheaper DM55 is even more appealing – its meaty yet subtle sound is a huge audio upgrade for your TV. Size (hwd) 7 x 55 x 30cm Inputs Optical, coaxial

Select the right cable for your system

Speaker cable What is it? Solid-core or stranded cable. What’s it for? Connecting multiple speakers.

Digital optical cable What is it? Cable that transmits audio as light. What’s it for? Transmitting audio in the digital domain.

HDMI cable What is it? A digital cable that transmits video and audio. What’s it for? To link HDMI sources.

Stereo interconnects What is it? Analogue cable. What’s it for? To replace your kit’s freebie leads.

Mains cable What is it? Heavy-duty cable upgrade. What’s it for? To replace your kit’s inferior mains cable. February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 89


SPEAKER PACKAGES

Style packages ₨1,10,000-₨2,00,000

Style packages under ₨1,10,0000

GOOD SURROUND SOUND IS A MOVIE-MAGIC MUST

Q Acoustics Q7000i ₨1,06,000 Got a lac to spend on a sub/sat package? Spend it here. This compact set creates a cohesive and expansive soundfield, with strong bass. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 12 x 20 x 16cm Finishes 2

Tannoy HTS-101 XP ₨72,900

AWARD WINNER

Best style package under ₨1,00,000, Awards 2015

The latest incarnation of a multiple winner has a sonic character that retains its fast, spacious quality, but with extra detail and solidity. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 19 x 10 x 11cm Finishes 1

B&W MT-50 ₨1,76,000

AWARD WINNER

Best style package ₨1,00,000+, Awards 2015

These speakers sound crisp, clear and insightful, and the sub and satellites integrate so well. Value and versatility combined. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 25 x 11 x 16cm Finishes 2

B&W MT-60D ₨2,95,000 Compact and stylish (we love that sub), this package presents a dynamic, powerful sound that excels with surround sound and stereo music. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 25 x 11 x 16cm Finishes 2

Before you buy: equipment racks Choosing an equipment rack can be tricky. Here are a few things to consider…

1) Equipment supports have a difficult job to do. Ideally, they should isolate your system from external vibrations, so that it can perform optimally, but also act as a ‘sink’ for any internally generated vibrations – say, the effects of a spinning disc or the low-level buzz of a mains transformer. Make sure there’s enough air space around your kit to avoid it overheating, though. 2) Racks come in different sizes and lengths. Do you need a full-width bench-style rack? If you have lots of hi-fi equipment, a wider rack might suit you better if you have the space for it. For those with only a CD player or amplifier to support, there are rack companies which sell half-width versions.

MODULAR RACK Ideal if you plan to grow your system, but check its ease of assembly

3) Plan for the future by choosing a rack with a modular design. It’s a good halfway house if you have one eye on later system expansion. How easy it is to assemble may be something to consider in this situation, too; a fussy design could bring frustration. However, while another shelf won’t be cheap, it’s likely to be less expensive than investing in a new rack altogether.

“Equipment supports should isolate your system from external vibrations, but also act as a ‘sink’ for internally generated vibrations”

90 | What Hi Fi? | March February 2017 94 2016

FULL-WIDTH RACK The solution for those with plenty of hi-fi equipment to support


SPEAKER PACKAGES CONTINUED Best traditional package under ₨1,50,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Traditional packages under ₨1.5Lacs

Dali Zensor 1 5.1 ₨1,14,300

Why did it win an Award? Because of the sound’s punchy dynamics, abundance of detail, expression, articulation and impressive integration. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 16 x 44 x 29cm Finishes 3

Q Acoustics 3000 Series 5.1 ₨99,500 A budget package that makes the sound from films come across as subtle, atmospheric and detailed. This is a fun listening experience. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 15 x 43 x 20cm Finishes 5

Best traditional package ₨1Lac-₨3Lacs, Awards 2015

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Traditional packages ₨1.5 Lacs+

Monitor Audio Bronze B5 AV ₨2,42,500

Our Speaker Package Product of the Year is beautifully designed, has ample punch, creates a spacious soundfield and is very musical. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 17 x 46 x 19cm Finishes 4

KEF R100 5.1 ₨3,13,000 Best traditional package ₨3,00,000+, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Gorgeous looks and superior sound quality – the R100 5.1 has both. There’s great scale, seamless integration, and an expressive midrange. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 17 x 53 x 31cm Finishes 4

Klipsch Reference Premier HD Wireless 5.1 ₨6,03,000

This Klipsch system is the first true high-fidelity, full-range HT wireless system that can rock your floorboards with power and dynamics. Size (hwd) Centre speaker 14 x 66 x 34cm Finishes 1

TELEVISIONS MAKE THE FOCUS OF YOUR ENTERTAINMENT HUB A GOOD ONE AWARD WINNER

Televisions ₨50,000-₨1,10,000

Samsung UA40JU6470U ₨83,900 Best 40-46in TV ₨50,000+, Awards 2015

You don’t need a huge screen to appreciate the benefits of a 4K pic. This sleek 40in set combines features, functionality and performance. Type LCD/LED Screen size 40in Resolution 3840 x 2160

Samsung UA48J6300AK ₨1,04,900

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best 47-52in TV under ₨1,10,000, Awards 2015

It has a pronounced curve, but the picture quality is a fantastic proposition at this price. Astonishingly good Full HD performance. Type LCD/LED Screen size 48in Resolution 1920 x 1080

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p70 February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 91


Televisions ₨1,10,000-₨2,00,000

TELEVISIONS CONTINUED Sony KDL-55W800C ₨1,24,900 Ultra HD 4K screens may be grabbing all the headlines, but Full HD screens are still in the majority. A Android TV with the flair to dazzle. Type LCD/LED Screen size 55in Resolution 1920 x 1080

Samsung UA48JU6470U ₨1,31,900 Best 47-52in TV ₨1,00,000+, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

This Samsung is special: super-sharp 4K, realistic textures, a smart interface, and a slim, attractive physique. Impressive. Type LCD/LED Screen size 48in Resolution 3840 x 2160

LG OLED65E6T ₨6,29,900 Every cinephile's dream telly, the new generation LG E6 4K OLED is pretty much the best TV on sale currently. Type OLED Screen size 65in Resolution 3840 x 2160

LG55EG960T ₨3,59,900 Televisions ₨2,00,000 and above

Best 52-60in TV ₨2,50,000+, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Top-drawer 4K Ultra HD resolution meets OLED technology, and the results are simply stunning. The price seems to be slipping too… Type OLED Screen size 55in Resolution 3840 x 2160

Samsung UA55JU7500K ₨2,41,900 Best 52-60in TV under ₨2,50,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

This 55in beauty produces not just excellent 4K content, but will make your HD TV channels and Blu-rays look awesome too. Type LCD/LED Screen size 55in Resolution 3840 x 2160

Samsung UA65JS9000K ₨4,40,900 Best 60in+ TV, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

005£-003£

This curved set combines excellent smarts with a gorgeous, insightful picture. If a big screen and 4K are must-haves, your search is over. Type LCD/LED Screen size 65in Resolution 3840 x 2160

Sony KD-65X9300C, ₨3,74,900 A great, and very big telly, its stunning picture (and brilliant sound) is everything you would expect from a flagship television. Type LCD/LED Screen size 65in Resolution 3840 x 2160

Gaming TVs

Input lag Televisions come with their own built-in latency, and high latencies lead to less-responsive controls. Manufacturers rarely mention these figures, but look online and you’ll find some useful sites that list television latencies.

92 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

If you’re into gaming then a television that gives you an advantage is vital We’ve highlighted four areas to ensure you won’t be left on the losing side

Local dimming Local dimming works by dimming the backlight in the image’s darker areas, resulting in deeper blacks. TVs with good dimming can have excellent contrast, making for more vivid, expressive colours but they can also add to a TV’s latency.

Don’t believe refresh rates Higher refresh rates update the image faster, which should reduce motion judder. Console games run no faster than 60 frames per second, so refresh rates of 120Hz and more won’t hugely improve performance. A 60Hz set is more than capable.

Game mode Game mode disables processing modes thereby reducing input lag. That’s the good part. Less good is that contrast and image quality suffer, resulting in a drablooking image. A game mode can be useful, but it can also compromise the image.


BUYER’S GUIDE

BEST BUYS The only products worth considering

PORTABLE HEADPHONES

BIN THE BUNDLED BUDS, AND INVEST IN BETTER SOUND

Sennheiser Momentum M2 IEi ₨6990

PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

Best in-ears ₨5000-₨10,000, Awards 2015

You wouldn’t think anything so small could sound so good for the cost. But good they sound, wonderfully smooth, expressive and balanced. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.3m In-ears under ₨10,000

FiiO EX1 ₨4,999 These monitors are nicely judged tonally, with plenty of detail. Add an expansive soundstage and you’re looking at great value for money. In-line controls No Cable length 1.2m

SoundMagic E10S ₨1999

AWARD WINNER

Best in-ears under ₨5000, Awards 2015

Paying ₨2000 for a pair of buds like these ranks as one of the simplest, most affordable and most satisfying upgrades available. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.2m

Shure SE425 ₨23,220 Best in-ears ₨10,000-₨30000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Sennheiser IE 800 ₨54,990

In-ears ₨10,000 and above

If you’re serious about the quality of your in-ear headphones, we’d point you here. The energetic, immersive performance is irresistible. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.6m AWARD WINNER

Best in-ears ₨30,000+, Awards 2015

You might think it a waste to spend so much on buds, but don’t make up your mind till you’ve heard these – they’re astonishing performers. In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.1m

Shure SE846 ₨84,700 Stunning detail, supreme tonal balance and extraordinary dynamics. You just need to ensure you use an equally talented source In-line controls Yes Cable length 1.2m & 1.6m

SUBSCRIBE NOW INDIA’S NO.1 HOME ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE

p70 February 2017 | What Hi Fi? | 93


Noise cancelling heaphones up to ₨30,000

HEADPHONES CONTINUED Bose QuietComfort 25 ₨25,200 These cans are a real treat. Their noise-cancelling capabilities are extraordinary, their clear, balanced sound a joy to hear. Quoted battery life 35 hours

PSB M4U2 ₨23,900 As well as obliging with a powerful delivery the PSBs offer a choice of listening modes (passive, active and noise-cancelling), to suit. Quoted battery life 55 hours

AKG K451 ₨4999 Great agility and precision timing combined with excellent build and compact size, makes the K451s a must-audition pair of cans. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 120g PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

On-ears under ₨15,000

AKG Y50 ₨7990 Best portable on-ears under ₨10,000, Awards 2015

Our Product of the Year cans for 2015 are portable on-ears, and deliver a rhythmic, clear, detailed, dynamic sound. At this price they’re amazing. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 190g

Philips Fidelio M1MkII ₨10,999

AWARD WINNER

The Fidelios offer an unusually smooth delivery and plenty of weighty, punchy bass. Clarity and precision are further strong points. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 166g

On-ears ₨15,000-₨30,000

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H2 ₨15,990 Not only do these headphones look great, they also do a fine job of music reproduction – and offer great pride of ownership. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 155g

Beyerdynamic T51i ₨19,999 Awards 2014

It’s satisfying when great design, premium build and top performance all come together. These on-ears really do sound as good as they look. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm/6.3mm Weight 174g

B&W P5 Series 2 ₨22,900 Clear, precise sound, bags of detail, punchy rhythm – these gorgeous ’phones have the lot. We can’t think of anything to say against them. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 195g

System Killers

Mission Impossible Out now 94 | What Hi Fi? | February 2017

Inside out Out now

Mad Max: Fury Road Out now

Ex Machina Out now

Fast and Furious 7 Out now


HEADPHONES CONTINUED Grado SR125e ₨13,200 On-ears ₨15,000-₨30,000

These might have looked at home on the ears of a wartime radio operator, but they sound great. Stay at home, though: they’re leaky. Type Open Connection 3.5mm/6.5mm Weight 363g

Grado SR325e ₨25,900 Best home on-ears ₨15,000-₨30,000, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

If you don’t mind the sound that leaks from them, you’re free to enjoy the fluid dynamics and wonderfully musical presentation. Type Open Connection 3.5mm/6.5mm Weight 330g

AKG K812 ₨99,052 On-ears ₨30,000 and above

For outright insight you’d have to spend thousands more than this on speakers before you get close to the resolution and agility on offer here. Type Open Connection 3.5mm/6.3mm Weight 390g PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

B&W P7 ₨32,900 Worth every penny. The solid build quality and comfy fit we expect, but the level of detail and dynamics swept us off our feet. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 290g

Shure SRH1540 ₨41,300

AWARD WINNER

Best home on-ears ₨30,000+, Awards 2015

Once the music starts you’ll focus on the expansive, beautifully balanced sound. There’s agility, enthusiasm and genuine musicality too. Type Closed Connection 3.5mm Weight 286g

Best wireless headphones ₨25,000+, Awards 2015

AWARD WINNER

Wireless headphones up to ₨40K

B&W P5 Wireless ₨28,950

All the characteristics of the P5 Series 2 without the wire. The Bluetooth connection works well and the sound is nigh-on as good as the Series 2. Folding Yes Quoted battery life 17hrs Wireless range n/a

Philips Fidelio M2BT ₨14,500 Bluetooth here is the superior aptX version. There’s also NFC connectivity and – most important – a rich, balanced, musical sound. Folding No Quoted battery life 10hrs Wireless range 15m

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T H AT WA S T H E N

THAT WAS THEN EMBER 1995 SONY PLAYSTATION DEC

Two stars. You could say we failed to see the whole picture

Evolution – things have to adapt to survive. That’s something we’ve tried to do over the years as the types of products we review change and our readers’ priorities shift. We’re not perfect though, and proof of that lies in our December 1995 review of Sony’s original Playstation. Back then we recognised the new device’s strengths as a games console, but then proceeded to rate it solely by its abilities as a CD player. Usability was a concern. The controls were accessible only through an on-screen display, so a connected TV was essential. This was at the time, remember, when TVs and hi-fi did not mix for most of the population.

98 | What Hi Fi?| February 2017

Misjudgement day What rating did we give a product that was to become a dominant force in home entertainment for decades to come and a household name overnight? One that expanded gaming to the multi-billion rupee industry it is The new PS 4 Pro is worthy of its heritage.

today, and spawned descendants that would go on to establish the DVD and Blu-ray formats for the masses? Two stars. We’ve learned a lot since then, as we hope the upcoming review of the Playstation 4 Pro will prove. We take a more holistic view of products now, one that takes into account the absolute ability as well as the feature-set and usability. Performance still takes priority, but we’re flexible enough to give other aspects of the design a decent amount of pull on the verdict. The latest Playstation still isn’t a great CD player. But it can play Blu-rays, stream audio and video across your network and, of course, play games to state-of-the-art standards. That’s worth more than two stars in anyone’s book.


This is the control mount for an SME 300 series tonearm. It holds the arm lift and anti-skate controls. A simple task but still deserving an extraordinary part. Precision engineered in-house from a specially-selected metal alloy, it is meticulously crafted to minimise weight and resonance. Check measurements conďŹ rm dimensions to fractions of the width of a human hair.

Designed and Manufactured in Great Britain

SME believes that each component in their tonearms and turntables must be the very best it can be, regardless of how minor its role. This absolute dedication has won the highest praise from reviewers around the world. Isn’t it is time you listened to an SME?

Distributed in India by Cadence Audio LLP www.sme-audio.com | dhananjay@cadenceaudio.com +91 202 681 3085 | +91 992 346 7676

I NA EN CH

Listen at Audio Lounge Chennai +91 944 436 9900 | chennai.audiolounge.in No. 9/15 4th Cross Street, Ormes Road, Kilpauk, Chennai, 600010


RNI NO. MAHENG/2006/17330. Postal Reg. No. MCE/171/2015-17, Mailing Date 5th & 6th of every month. Publishing Date 1st of every month

MAK E MUSIC

HAPPEN

Traditional hand-crafting meets modernity in design and the latest technology: a high power amplifier, a powerful battery and innovative wireless technology included. The perfect sound source for an open air party. Exclusively imported & distributed by AUDIOPHILE INDIA Mr. Arjun: +91-9810003562 Mr. Sumit: +91-9212345665 Office: +91-01149415473 arjun@audiophileindia.com www.audiophileindia.com

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