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Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: a Bluetooth speaker that’s heavy on bass, light on weight – and solid bang for your buck
7:32 pm | May 16, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Comments: Off

Anker Soundcore Boom 2: Two-minute review

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 offers enough quality to get the party started, especially given its relatively low price. The chunky Bluetooth speaker’s main draw is its ability to plate up impactful deep bass tones, with its BassUp feature able to pump this up further. 

In addition, the Soundcore Boom 2 keeps pace with a number of pricier options among the best Bluetooth speakers when it comes to battery life, offering a playtime of up to 24 hours.

As a lower-cost option, however, the Boom 2 sometimes compromises on quality, with the mid-range and high frequencies lacking crisp definition, especially at louder volumes. It’s not exactly the best-looking Bluetooth speaker either, though its built-in Light Show feature with customizable settings may add a splash of excitement for some. 

One slightly disappointing aspect is the Soundcore Boom 2’s lack of a dustproof rating, despite Soundcore pitching it as a beachside companion. It is, however, waterproof and floatable, making it a worthy candidate for a pool party, and an option for those looking at the best waterproof speakers. Being boyant also means it's quite light in weight for a chunky speaker, which means it's portable – a big plus.

With Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity and simple button controls, the Boom 2 is super-easy to set up and operate. If you want to get more out of it, the free-to-download Soundcore app enables users to flick through Light Show options and calibrate EQ settings to their liking (which can help improve the sonic balance a lot). 

Despite some shortcomings when it comes to how it sounds, the Boom 2 has a decent amount of power. If you’re not overly concerned with top-quality audio and want a powerful Bluetooth speaker that can cut through loud background noise while being more portable than most of its direct competitors, the Boom 2 makes for a solid pick. For those who like a more rounded sound, the JBL Charge 5 is about the same price, and will give you that – but it lacks the same level of bass thump and the useful carry handle.

Soundcore Boom 2 standing on granite surface

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Price and release date

  • Released on March 6, 2024
  • Price: $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99

The Soundcore Boom 2 is well-priced for a larger portable wireless speaker, carrying an asking price of $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99. That’s just $30 more than its predecessor, the Soundcore Motion Boom, despite the newer model offering double the output power (without BassUp enabled), new drivers, and more versatile multi-speaker pairing (via PartyCast 2.0).

By comparison, our highly recommended JBL Charge 5 can sometimes be found at around $10 more, so there are similarly affordable alternatives out there. For $70 / £42 (about AU$80) more, you could pick up the Tribit Stormbox Blast speaker, which is a bit bulkier, but offers awesome sound quality and still with buckets of bass.

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Specs

'Soundcore' is written on the handle of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Features

  • BassUp bass-boosting feature
  • 24 hours of playtime
  • Adjustable Light Show settings

The Soundcore Boom 2 houses a 50W subwoofer alongside two 15W tweeters, meaning that its output can hit 80W. However, this 80W output is only achievable when the Boom 2’s BassUp feature is activated, which serves up a “punchy bass” according to Soundcore. I’d agree here, to a degree; the Soundcore Boom 2 is clearly designed around delivering a solid deep bass listening experience – more on this later.

Utilizing the BassUp function doesn’t come without a downside, however, as it causes the Soundcore Boom 2’s playtime to deplete faster. For reference, the model has a playtime of up to 24 hours per charge, which is a good amount of time for a speaker of its size. I found that it took over five hours of playing music at 30% volume for it to drop 20% of its battery (as rated by the app, using its crude system of five battery bars – I would much prefer an actual percentage). It certainly appears to live up to its battery claims.

As is the case with BassUp, users should be warned that the Soundcore Boom 2’s Light Show option also drains battery faster – a feature which may not be to everyone’s tastes, although there is an option to switch it off entirely.

Light Show has seven settings: Energy, Fireworks, Flame, Flash, Lightning, Rainbow, and Wave. Each setting syncs with bass audio, which is more apparent with options such as Flame than with others, like Fireworks. The Soundcore app enables you to alter the colors used in each Light Show configuration, adjust brightness levels, or turn the LED lights off entirely. You can also switch between Light Show settings by holding the speaker’s BassUp button, which is a slightly hidden design choice, but works well regardless. 

Anker's Soundcore Boom 2 supports Bluetooth 5.3, which ensured that it was quick and easy to connect with both my Android phone and one of the best portable music players. Like many other similar Bluetooth speakers, the Soundcore Boom 2 also offers charging of a phone or other device through a USB-A port hidden beneath a rubber tab on its reverse side. Next to this is a USB-C port, which can be used to charge the speaker – note that you can’t charge another device from the USB-C port, which is a shame. The model comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable, which can fully recharge the Boom 2 in approximately 5.5 hours.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to connect more than 100 Soundcore speakers at the same time, you’re in luck. The Soundcore Boom 2 has a PartyCast 2.0 feature, enabling it to sync its audio and light output with various other Soundcore speakers.

  • Features score: 4/5

Rainbow-colored light panel on side of Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Sound quality

  • Impressive, booming bass
  • Various vocal and instrumental elements can lack definition
  • ‘Balanced’ EQ setting provides decent all-round experience 

The heavy kick of the Soundcore Boom 2’s deep bass means that it can hold its own at events with lots of background noise, such as outdoor parties or gatherings. When listening to Young Blood by The Naked and Famous, the Boom 2 delivered deep bass tones with substantial power, even without BassUp enabled.

Though it's still good value, the Boom 2’s low-end output isn’t perfect. When I listened to Black Eye by Allie X, the energetic bass bounce you’d anticipate from the opening is slightly lacking, especially when I compared it to the JBL Xtreme 4. The Boom 2 reaches deep, but it doesn’t connect the bass to the mid-range so well out of the box, leaving it feeling thin as it moves through the range of low-end frequencies.

Unfortunately, the Boom 2’s prominent bass can sometimes be overbearing, and at times the speaker’s deep bass output slightly drowned out vocal elements, for instance. This was apparent when listening to Moloko’s I Want You, when I was once again impressed by the bass output, but felt that it overshadowed the impact of several other instruments too heavily, preventing the complexity of the track from being fully realized. Unsurprisingly, this is exaggerated further with volume cranked up high, and even more with BassUp turned on, so I’d only recommend using this feature if you're really going for that pounding beat for a party, and aren't really worried about fidelity.

The Soundcore Boom 2’s clarity isn’t going to wow, with higher-pitched vocals and lower-toned guitars often lacking a touch of sharpness and definition. With a bit more sweetness to its sound, it could've been a really great speaker.

In fairness, some of these issues can be remedied somewhat via the Soundcore App, which enables users to switch from the default ‘Soundcore Signature’ EQ settings (where the midrange is given precious little limelight) to a ‘Balanced’ option, which delivers a decent all-round listening experience. The Soundcore app also has ‘Voice’ and ‘Treble Boost’ presets, as well as an option to adjust EQ levels manually. 

But while this all improves their balance in the mix, it doesn’t solve the deeper lack of detail. Voices and strings are simply less sweet, less real, than pricier large speakers.

  • Sound quality score: 3.5/5

Button controls of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Design

  • Plastic exterior looks on the cheaper side
  • Nice and lightweight
  • Lacks a dustproof rating, although it’s waterproof and floatable

When it comes to style points, the Soundcore Boom 2 doesn’t score too highly, with its plastic casing looking a little on the basic side. The speaker is available in Adventure Green (the version I tested, and it's a nice color), Explorer Blue, and Phantom Black, all of which look clean enough, though may not appeal to those seeking a touch of pizzazz. The Boom 2’s drivers are protected by a rather budget-looking plastic covering decorated with the Soundcore logo. 

For the price, however, the Soundcore Boom 2 still looks the part for any outdoor event or party, sporting a solid attached handle and minimalistic yet simple button controls, which enabled a quick and easy setup. It also has four rubber feet at the base to provide grip, protect the speaker’s base from scratching against rough surfaces, and stop the bass vibration from moving it around.

Something I really liked about the Boom 2 is that it’s relatively light for its size, weighing in at 3.66lbs / 1.67kg. That’s far less hefty than comparable models such as the Tribit Stormbox Blast, which comes in at a weighty 11.6lbs / 5.3kg.

There’s something about the Soundcore Boom 2 that I found almost perplexing, however. The speaker’s packaging specifically bigs up its use at a beach setting, with much of the model’s online marketing similarly highlighting this. However, the speaker is only IPX7 certified, meaning it does not have a dustproof rating, unlike an IP67-rated model such as the JBL Charge 5.

This means the Soundcore Boom 2 may not be a prime pick for the beach after all, although the IPX7 rating does promise that the speaker can withstand being under 1m of water for 30 minutes without suffering any damage. The Boom 2 is also floatable, making it easily accessible in a pool (or maybe even a large bath). 

Naturally, I gave it a dunking – it floated well (on its side), and after being submerged underwater for around a minute it was still able to play audio to the same standard as before.

USB-A and USB-C ports on reverse side of the Soundcore Boom 2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Design score: 3.5/5

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Value

  • Low-priced for a larger Bluetooth speaker
  • Despite imperfect sound, it will do the job for parties
  • Large competitors often have higher list prices

The Soundcore Boom 2 may not be revolutionary, it may not deliver earth-shatteringly good audio, and it may not even woo the masses with elite design, but one thing’s for sure – it performs well in the value category. 

It’s not the cheapest Bluetooth speaker available, but given its larger size and solid bass output, it’s easily worth its $129.99 / £119.99 / AU$219.99 price tag. The Boom 2 provides everything essential for the average listener, especially when accounting for the adjustments available via the Soundcore app. 

Indeed, many speakers of a similar size go for much closer to the $200 / £150 / AU$300 mark. For instance, the JBL Charge 5 has an official price of $179.95 / £169.99 / AU$199.95 and the Sonos Roam comes in at $179 / £179 / AU$299. If you want a speaker with powerful, pumping outdoor sound at a lower cost, the Boom 2 is worth considering.

  • Value score: 4/5

Should you buy the Anker Soundcore Boom 2?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: Also consider

Anker Soundcore Boom 2 review: How I tested

  • I used the speaker over the course of a week
  • Mostly used in our music testing room in the TechRadar office
  • I listened to a wide variety of music genres during each listening session

I spent hours testing the Soundcore Boom 2 with music, checking how easy the speaker was to set up and operate, tinkering with its various Light Show settings, and of course tuning into the quality of its audio output. 

While using the speaker, I listened to a range of tracks, including songs from TechRadar’s testing playlist. I had other speakers available to compare against, including the similarly sized JBL Xtreme 4. I connected both a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 using Spotify and a Fiio M11S hi-res music player using Tidal, to put the Boom 2’s audio abilities to work.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: May 2024
Sony ULT Field 7 review: a great wireless party speaker that can handle its big bass
8:59 pm | May 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

Sony ULT Field 7: Two minute review

The Sony ULT Field 7 is the company’s latest addition to the world of weatherproof portable speakers – gone are the days when listening to music outside meant trailing an extension cord precariously through the house and watching the skies with trepidation. The ULT Field 7 is a seriously large, seriously powerful party speaker, ready for big spaces.

Priced at $499 / £399, the Sony ULT Field 7 is available for purchase in the US and the UK and will be available in Australia at some point, but Sony hasn’t shared the price or release date there just yet. However you look at it, this is a big outlay if you’re only looking for an occasional party speaker, but if you like to entertain a lot, or are generally just a fan of heavy bass and want one of the best Bluetooth speakers that can deliver this, the price may not be so off-putting to you.

In a bid to make the Sony ULT Field 7 the perfect party companion, it’s been designed to be waterproof and dustproof, with an IP67 rating backing this up, which is about as good as you get from the best waterproof speakers. This means that you’re all good to use this speaker whether you’re entertaining during a rainy BBQ, or having a beach party. While Sony has attempted to jazz things up with colorful lighting, it is a shared opinion in the TechRadar office that this speaker does, unfortunately, look a bit like a trash can when standing vertically. 

While you may be correct in thinking that a super-charged party speaker like the Sony ULT Field 7 isn’t going to provide the most delicate of listening experiences, it’s surprisingly well-rounded. Not only do bass-heavy tracks sound exciting and dynamic, but mids and trebles are handled well across all genres. Podcasts and talk shows are even pleasant to listen to, and speech is clear.

One aspect that let the ULT Field 7 down is the Sony Music Center app. Its design is reminiscent of a pre-2010 website, it’s laggy, and has some connection issues. At least with the ULT bass and lighting modes easily adjustable on the speaker, you should only need to use the app every now and then, unless you spend a lot of time fiddling with the finer details (which I did, but such is the life of a reviewer).

The size and weight of the ULT Field 7 is something worth considering carefully. The speaker is marketed as being easy to carry – which is somewhat true thanks to the solid integrated carry handles – but, at a size of about 20 x 9 x 9 inches / 512 x 224 x 222 mm, and weight of about 14lb / 6.3kg, you aren’t going to want to carry it long distances.

So, should you spend $499 / £399 on this speaker? If you don’t mind the aesthetics and the disappointing app, the quality of the sound is impressive, and could be exactly what your next party or gathering needs.

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker logo close-up

Covered in fabric, the Sony ULT Field 7 is a bit of a black hole. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Price and release date

  • Released April 2024
  • Priced at $499 / £399 (about AU$770)
  • 'Coming soon' to Australia

The Sony ULT Field 7 launched in April 2024 as part of the new ULT-series lineup. The lineup also included four other models, the ULT Wear headphones, the ULT Field 1, and the ULT Tower 10.

The ULT Field 7 costs $499 / £399. This translates to about AU$770, but it's listed as unavailable on Sony’s Australian website at the time of writing. It does state “available soon”, so hopefully the official pricing will be added shortly.

This is fairly high in the world of portable speakers, but is far from unusual – the JBL Xtreme 4 and UE Hyperboom come in at a similar kind of price, though both are a little cheaper.

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Specs

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker ports

The flap on the back opens to reveal buttons and connections galore. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Features

  • ULT presets for powerful and deep bass
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • 30 hours stated battery life

The Sony ULT Field 7 has a load of features that help to make it a good choice for parties or outdoor gatherings. Firstly, and most importantly for this speaker to be worth its salt, is the powerful ULT sound. There are two preset bass EQ settings, ULT1 and ULT2. The ULT1 setting is intended for tracks with especially low-frequency sounds, delivering impressively deep levels of bass. ULT2 is for delivering louder and punchier bass, better suited to house parties where the lack of detail won’t matter, as you’ll be focussing more on dance-offs. 

The ULT Field 7 also has a Sound Field Optimization feature, which is designed to detect the sounds in the surrounding environment before automatically adjusting the audio settings to improve how it sounds in reaction to them. 

The ULT Field 7 promises to provide 30 hours of playtime, and can build up three hours worth of playtime after charging for 10 minutes. This stated 30 hours battery life is based on having ULT 1 or 2 on, and the lighting (which is just in the ends of the speaker) off. 

I found that the battery dropped 20% over about five and a half house with the lighting and Sound Field Optimization on. This suggests that this speaker could run for about 27 hours with these features enabled, which is good going considering Sony says that’s basically the worst-case scenario.

The design of the ULT Field 7 is a feature in itself. It has integrated carry handles that make it easy to maneuver, plus it has an IP67 waterproof and dustproof rating and is salt water resistant, so you can feel confident in the speaker's durability whether you’re having a party at home, in the garden, or on the beach. 

To further add to the party vibe, hidden behind the rear panel is an input for a microphone or guitar so you can use the ULT Field 7 as a karaoke machine, or a guitar amp, which is a nice bit of versatility. 

Speaking of amping up the sound, the Party Connect feature means that you can link this speaker to a wide range of other compatible speakers in the Sony range, so you can sync up the sound and lighting.

In other wireless tricks, it has LDAC higher-quality Bluetooth support, plus multi-point pairing so you switch between devices it's connected to easily.

Features score: 4.5/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker bass reflex port with lights showing

There's plenty of power from these bass reflex ports. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Sound quality

  • Impressively deep bass
  • Satisfying vocal clarity
  • Don’t expect a lot of detail

Despite this speaker focusing its efforts on heavy bass levels, it still delivers a balanced and pleasant listening experience across the board, as you’d expect from Sony. Yes, some delicate details are overshadowed by the amplified basslines, but anything aimed at parties was never going to be the audiophile's ideal choice.

By default, the speaker is set to the ULT2 mode. There is a noticeable difference when switching to ULT1 because, as promised, this setting does indeed deliver more depth. I am impressed with the way it handles low frequencies, giving much-needed definition to the low-end of tracks like Angel by Massive Attack, which is lost amid the amped-up bass of ULT2 mode. 

A good level of softness and detail are still detectable in vocals in ULT1 mode – and even in the punchier ULT2 mode, voices still sound clear. It doesn’t sound like you’re listening from outside the venue, which can be the case with cheaper and smaller speakers when you crank up the bass power. 

ULT2 mode succeeds in still delivering dynamic sound that makes you want to bounce along to the beat while being more refined. The bass isn’t overpowering when listening to Von Dutch by Charli XCX; the balance is there between the clear vocals and the energetic bassline.

The important thing with outdoor speakers is that they are able to carry big bass and clear vocals across the open air, battling breezes and other interferences, across a potentially long distance. The ULT Field 7 has no trouble with this – and unlike some, it actually sounds good while doing it. 

Listening to podcasts is a surprisingly detailed experience too. When listening to The Unbelievable Truth there was a good balance between the speech, buzzer sounds, and audience laughter and applause. 

This speaker delivers a satisfying well-rounded listening experience with a light touch when needed, which is particularly impressive considering it’s a beast of a speaker (in a good way) when it comes to its thumping bass registers.

Sound quality score: 4/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker standing upright on a stone floor

You can have the speaker flat or standing up. We'll talk about the latter option a bunch in the next section… (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Design

  • Ashtray vibes
  • Collects dust and debris easily
  • Robust and durable

I’m sorry to say that I’m a little less positive when it comes to the looks of the Sony ULT Field 7. It has been designed to sit horizontally on a surface or to stand vertically on one end. I don’t have particularly strong feelings when it is sitting horizontally. The control panel is easy to access, and the ULT Field 7 looks like what it is: a big speaker. But when it’s standing on one end, I can’t lie, it’s giving me the feeling of a public ashtray outside a hotel or conference venue.

On a brighter note, the button controls feel substantial and are easy to press. Sony has a habit of using a satisfyingly soft silicone material, and this is what’s used here too. The control panel houses the power, Bluetooth, play/pause, volume, and ULT mode buttons printed in pale grey. When the illumination is on, the ULT button lights up in sync with the circular ring lights that sit on either end of the speaker. These lights are more subtle than seems ideal, because they’re set quite far into the sides of the speaker – I feel like if you’re going to do this in a big speaker, you should really go for it, otherwise why bother with the battery drain? – but they make a nice touch. There are nine different lighting effects available, as well as the option to turn the lights off.

There is a hatch on the back of the speaker that conceals a number of additional controls, including a light button, which cycles through the illumination effects, a battery care button to protect against over-charging, an echo button, and key control buttons. This is also where the inputs live for a microphone or guitar, USB-A, aux-in, and the plug for charging (a figure-eight cable – no USB-C here).

Sony markets the ULT Field 7 as easy to transport, designed with convenient carry handles built into either end. While these handles do make picking it up a lot easier, it doesn’t change the fact that this speaker is on the large side, measuring about 20 x 9 x 9 inches / 512 x 224 x 222 mm and weighing about 14 lbs / 6.3kg. I’m quite a petite person, and while I can carry the speaker between rooms, it would be a struggle for me to wander down to the beach with it.

While the speaker itself has a good dustproof rating, the outer fabric and silicone ends and feet pick up dust and debris easily. So it'll definitely work happily wherever you take it (within reason), but you will probably find that it starts to look less-than-pristine quite quickly, and fabrics like this aren’t super easy to clean.

Now, I know I bashed the appearance earlier, and I still stand by my opinion that it looks like somebody attempted to jazz up an office trash can with some RGB lights – but ultimately, this speaker is designed to be durable, so it makes sense that it looks somewhat utilitarian.

So while I’m not happy about how quickly it starts to look dirty, the intention is to have the ability to listen to music in wet, dusty, or sandy environments, without worrying about it taking its toll on the hardware. At least the rating means that it’s somewhat washable, so all is not lost even if it gets a little grubby.

Design score: 3.5/5

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker controls

There's a row of controls on top – including the ULT bass control, which changes color, to emphasize how extreme it is. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Usability and setup

  • Quick setup
  • Disappointing app

Setting up the Sony ULT Field 7 was simple. The speaker powered on easily, and I just had to press the Bluetooth button and my iPhone spotted it straight away.

The appearance of the Sony Music Center app feels low-budget, which is disappointing for an established brand like Sony. My less-than-positive opinions were further proven when switching between apps, as each time I left the app it appeared to disconnect from the speaker, so it takes a moment to reconnect each time I move away from the app. I found this particularly frustrating when fine-tuning the settings, as every time I hopped onto the Apple Music app to change tracks and get a feel for the changes I’d made, I had to start from the home menu again when I returned to the Sony app. 

In addition to the delay from switching between apps, it took over a minute – sometimes longer – for the app to connect with the speaker after powering it on, whereas other Bluetooth speakers I’ve tested will reconnect to an app in seconds. Perhaps this will be improved by software updates in the future, but just note that it might be frustrating if you try it soon.

When tapping on My Library, the app is able to access Apple Music and my media library, so I can get straight to my chosen media through the app, if I choose to. (Obviously, like 99% of people, I mostly choose to just use whatever app I usually use.)

Tapping on Music took me straight to the Apple Music section within the app. There is a tab for audio input, for those times that you might want to use it as an amp for playing guitar, or to blare out some karaoke. There’s also a tab for USB input, so you can play music from a storage device. There’s a dedicated tab to take you straight to Spotify, if that’s your service of choice. 

Alongside the ULT1 and ULT2 modes, you can also alter the EQ settings manually in the Settings tab. Frustratingly, you need to head back to the Sound Effect tab to select Custom mode before the app will let you alter the EQ. Generally, other apps will intuitively switch off other modes when you customize settings, but this is just another example of the Sony Music Center app being disappointingly clunky.

Usability and setup score: 3.5/5 

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker's handle held in a man's hand

The handles at each end make it easy to grab and move, though you wouldn't want to go too far. (Image credit: Future)

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Value

  • Good audio quality for the price
  • Great for parties (if not audiophile listening sessions)
  • Over-priced for an occasional speaker

This speaker may not equate to being good value for the money if you only throw a party every once in a blue moon, but if you enjoy blasting tunes outdoors on the regular, then you’ll be getting what you pay for here, thanks to the durability and sound quality. I think it’s a sound investment for the right person.

That feeling of value is partly helped by the good range of features offered here, from two bass-boosting modes, to the sound adaptation based on audio around it, to karaoke and guitar plugs, to multi-point pairing.

I think the overall versatility is harmed slightly by it being as large and heavy as it is, which may bring down the value for some – its value as a beach speaker is reduced if you don't want to carry it to the beach because it's large and heavy – but that's balanced by it being well-built and having a good IP waterproofing rating.

Value score: 4/5 

Should I buy the Sony ULT Field 7?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Sony ULT Field 7 review: Also consider

How I tested the Sony ULT Field 7

Sony ULT Field 7 speaker power and ports close-up

(Image credit: Future)
  • I tested the speaker for one week
  • I played music continuously to determine battery usage
  • I listened to music and podcasts

I tested the Sony ULT Field 7 over the course of a week – after a thorough run-in. I listened to a range of different music genres, and podcasts, listening out for how the speaker handled bass, mid-tones, treble, and so on. 

I mostly used the speaker in TechRadar's music testing room, where I could really get a feel for what it's capable of – but obviously I used this portable speaker in other locations as well.

To determine how fast the battery would run down, I played music continuously at 25% volume, and continuously checked to see how quickly the battery indicator changed, tracking the time along the way.

I played music to it from an iPhone, a MacBook Air, and a Fiio M11S music player with LDAC support. My main music sources were Apple Music and Tidal, but I also used Spotify and podcasts.

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: the stylish steel swordsman of portable DACs
7:00 pm | May 5, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi | Comments: Off

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: Two-minute review

The iFi GO Bar Kensei is another reminder that iFi knows precisely what’s what when it comes to headphone amps and DACs of all shapes, sizes and prices. More often than not, it’s among the leaders in any given market. And so it’s decided what the humble USB DAC/headphone amp needs is a bit of glamour to go along with performance. Hence, the GO Bar Kensei.

On paper and in the palm, it makes a lot of sense. The specification is extensive, the finish – all tactile Japanese stainless steel that catches the light – is unarguably upmarket. If you want to put an absolute rocket up the sound of your smartphone and enjoy ownership of a premium product as you do so, it would seem to be just the ticket.

And in practice, the GO Bar Kensei makes good on a lot of what it promises. It’s a deft, rhythmically adept and impressively spacious listen, able to retrieve a huge amount of detail and put it all into the proper context. It has plenty of dynamic headroom, and is able to apply its talents to any digital audio file no matter where you source it from. 

It overplays its hand somewhat at the top of the frequency range, though – ‘brilliance’ is not always a positive when it comes to treble sounds, especially when there’s not the substance to balance it out. And there’s a periodic glitch in the way the GO Bar Kensei performs that sends an unpleasant burst of noise to your headphones at the start of a new file, too. Both of these things undermine the iFi somewhat when compared to the best portable DACs, and make it a fair bit less compelling than it otherwise would be.

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: Price and release date

the iFi GO Bar Kensei on top of a wooden box

(Image credit: Future)
  • Released in March 2024
  • Priced at $499 / £449 / AU$769

The iFi GO Bar Kensei portable headphone amp/DAC is on sale now for $449 in the United States, £449 United Kingdom and in Australia, it will set you back AU$769 or thereabouts.

The world is not short of portable USB headphone amp/DACs, of course. What it is slightly shorter of is really quite expensive USB headphone amp/DACs, and shorter still of really quite expensive USB headphone amp/DACs that have gotten completely carried away with Japanese sword master analogies. So this iFi has quite a bit to prove… 

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: Features

iFi GO Bar Kensei

(Image credit: Future)
  • 32bit Cirrus Logic DAC
  • ‘K2HD’ audio processing technology
  • Balanced and unbalanced outputs

The GO Bar Kensei is necessarily compact, but that hasn’t prevented iFi from cramming it with features.

On the inside, iFi has sourced components from companies as well-regarded as muRata, Panasonic, TDK and Tantalum. These all serve to facilitate a 32bit Cirrus Logic DAC chipset that supports digital audio files of up to 32bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256 resolution, with full MQA decoding on board too. The DAC uses a 16-core XMOS microcontroller to process the audio data received at the USB-C input. 

And iFi has deployed technology derived from JVCKenwood too – ‘K2’ was originally developed to try and bring an ‘organic quality’ and ‘sound quality correction’ (JVCKenwood’s words, not mine) to digital recordings. iFi has breathed on it to the point that JVCKenwood asserts that it’s ‘the original ideal K2 sound’. Which is why, presumably, iFi has decided to refer to it as ‘K2HD’. 

Further finessing of the sound is available via four digital filters and a couple of analogue processing modes, all of which will be familiar to anyone who’s paid any attention to iFi products released over the last few years. ‘Bit-perfect’, ‘GTO’ (which stands for Gibbs Transient Optimised, of course), ‘minimum phase’ and ‘standard’ are all, supposedly, able to make particular genres of music sound, well, more genre-ish. ‘XBass+’ intends to accentuate the lower frequencies, and ‘XSpace’ wants to expand the sound field. 

No doubt you’ll investigate all of these options at your leisure. But no matter what your eventual preference(s), getting sound out of the GO Bar Kensei happens using either the 3.5mm unbalanced or 4.4mm balanced output at the opposite end of the device to the USB-C slot.  

Features score: 5 / 5

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: Sound quality

iFi GO Bar Kensei

(Image credit: Future)
  • Rapid, detailed and spacious sound
  • Positive and dynamic attitude
  • Overplays its hand with treble sounds

The sound quality the GO Bar Kensei delivers is, I reckon, a game of two slightly lop-sided halves plus a bit of extra time. And everything I’m about to say applies no matter which of the many filter and/or processing options you deploy. It’s possible to fiddle around the edges of the iFi’s sound, but its fundamental character is always apparent.

The first of the halves centres on just how rapid, detailed, open and organised a performer the GO Bar Kensei is. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing a 24bit/96kHz FLAC file of David Bowie’s Low, a Dolby Atmos stream of De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising or a 24bit/192kHz copy of Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? - every time, the iFi extracts and contextualises a huge amount of both broad and fine detail. No occurrence is too felting or too far back in a mix to escape its attention – and as a result, the sensation that you’re getting a complete picture is always present.

It digs reasonably deep at the bottom of the frequency range, and controls the low end to the point that rhythmic expression is good and momentum is undeniable. The big, open and well-defined nature of its soundstage allows every element of a recording the space it needs to properly express itself, and it allows vocalists in the midrange to communicate explicitly. There’s real eloquence and directness to the way the GO Bar Kensei delivers a singer, a sensation of positivity that feeds into the overall idea of ‘performance’ and ‘unity’.

Dynamic expression is good too, whether it’s the shifts in volume and intensity that many recordings indulge in or the more subtle (but no less significant) harmonic variations in a solo voice or instrument. The iFi can be muscular when needs be, but it’s just as capable of being tender and delicate.

The second half concerns the way the GO Bar Kensei deals with the top of the frequency range. To put it bluntly, it’s altogether too confident where treble sounds are concerned – they’re overstated in every circumstance, and tonally they lack substance and body. The top end here is crashy and splashy, hard-edged and thin – and these unhappy traits are only compounded by increases in volume. If you pair the iFi with similarly treble-centric headphones then your teeth will constantly be on edge.

And there’s extra time, which has nothing to do with the way the GO Bar Kensei sounds but everything to do with the way it performs. On occasion, when one file ends and the next begins, the iFi will let loose a very short burst of utterly startling electrical noise, a sort of exclamation of white noise that is, of course, entirely unwelcome and obviously unintentional. It doesn’t happen every time, but it happens often enough. And it’s not as if it’s provoked by switching from one streaming service to another or anything like that – simply hitting ‘play’ on a playlist can goad it. As I say, this is by no means a constant – but in some ways, it’s even more upsetting because it doesn’t happen every time. It seems to happen (to me, anyway) more often when using iFi’s USB-C/Lightning connector attached to an iPhone than when using the USB-C/USB-C cable with a Samsung smartphone… but either way, I’m not a fan. 

Sound quality: 3.5 / 5 

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: Design

iFi GO Bar Kensei

(Image credit: Future)
  • 65 x 22 x 13mm (HxWxD)
  • Japanese stainless steel
  • Very, very small user interface

At 65 x 22 x 13mm (HxWxD) the GO Bar Kensei is certainly pocket-sized, but at almost 66g it feels quite dense. The fact that it’s built almost entirely from Japanese stainless steel is probably to blame – but while it puts a little more strain on your pocket that most USB DACs, there’s no denying the iFi feels (and looks) like a premium product.

At one end of the stick there’s a USB-C slot, and at the other you’ll find the 3.5mm and 4.4mm outputs. Along one side there are a few controls – a multi-function button that allows you to check out the various digital filters and analogue processing modes, a button each for ‘volume up’ and ‘volume down’ and the ‘IEMatch’ switch. This last has three positions: ‘off’, ‘3.5’ and ‘4.4’.

On the rear of the stick, etched into the steel surface and consequently only visible when a) very close, and b) in favourable light, are a strip of miniscule LEDs that let you know what’s what (if your eyesight is up to it) in terms of mode, file type and file size. And on the top surface, there’s a company logo and some Japanese characters reading ‘Kensei’ – which apparently translates as ‘sword saint’.  

Design score: 4 / 5 

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: Usability and setup

iFi GO Bar Kensei on top of a phone

(Image credit: Future)
  • Plug your source into the USB-C input…
  • Plug your headphones into the 3.5mm or 4.4mm output…
  •  …and select your ‘IEMatch’ position

‘Setup’ is to overstate what’s required here. The GO Bar Kensei attaches to your source player via its USB-C slot (iFi provides short, good-quality USB-C/USB-C and USB-C/Lightning cables for this purpose) and to your headphones using either its 3.5mm unbalanced or 4.4mm balanced output. 

Then you simply need to decide if you need to deploy the ‘IEMatch’ switch, and whether or not you enjoy the effect of the ‘XBass+’ and/or ‘XSpace’ settings – and that’s about everything. Audio equipment doesn’t get any more straightforward.

Usability and setup score: 5 / 5 

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: Value

  • Priced in line with rivals
  • Comparative to the cost of a digital audio player

iFi GO Bar Kensei

(Image credit: Future)

It depends which way you look at it, really. The iFi GO Bar Kensei is among the more capable USB-sized headphone amp/DACs around – although it’s far from perfect – and is able to turn your smartphone into a far better source of music than it’s capable of being by itself. 

But it costs the sort of money that can get you close to buying a very decent dedicated portable music player… but if you decide to spend the money on one of the best MP3 players instead, you have to take two phone-sized devices out with you… decisions, decisions…   

Should I buy iFi GO Bar Kensei?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

iFi GO Bar Kensei review: Also consider

How I tested the iFi GO Bar Kensei

iFi GO Bar Kensei

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for a week 
  • Used with iPhone 14 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23
  • Listened with Grado SR325x headphones

On and off, I spent maybe a week listening to the GO Bar Kensei. I used it with Apple iPhone 14 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 smartphones. I connected it to Sennheiser IE900 in-ear monitors via its 4.4mm balanced output and to a pair of Grado SR325x over-ears using its 3.5mm connection. 

I used it while at home, on the street, and on the train. I mostly listened to music from TIDAL and Qobuz (because these streaming services are full of high-resolution content of MQA and 24bit/192kHz standard), and I checked out its various digital filters and analogue processing modes as I did so.

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review: the red DAC’s more devilishly good second time around
1:00 pm | April 21, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi | Comments: Off

iFi iDSD Diablo 2: Two-minute review

There’s an iFi headphone amp/DAC at every price-point – but there was a strong case to be made for the original iDSD Diablo being the most cost-effective of the lot. So the iDSD Diablo 2 has a lot to live up to if it wants to become one of the best portable DACs around…

The design is tidier and more thoughtful than before. Specification has moved on a little, too, thanks to new facilities with Bluetooth 5.4 and xMEMS headphones. What hasn’t changed, though, is the iFi’s need to be paired with similarly upmarket headphones in order to do its thing to its full potential.

It’s worth it, though, because when partnered with some of the best wired headphones in the business, its 'full potential' is very impressive indeed. It’s a rapid, fully detailed and nicely balanced listen, able to organise a soundstage or a complicated mix until these sound as natural as can be. It communicates fluently, controls rhythms and tempos well, and can extract every scrap of information from your digital audio files without apparent effort.

Some listeners will hanker after greater low-frequency impact, and others (or maybe the same ones) will recognise that the iDSD Diablo 2 could have greater dynamic headroom. Despite this, though, the iFi is an admirable device and one that will take some shifting from very near the top of your wish-list.

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 seen from above, on a wooden table

Oh, it's red and no mistake  (Image credit: Future)

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review: Price and release date

  • Release date: November 2023
  • Price: $1,299 / £1,299 / AU$2,199

The iFi iDSD Diablo 2 is on sale now, and in the United Kingdom it sells for £1,299. In America you’ll have to part with an only slightly more palatable $1,299, while in Australia it’ll set you back AU$2,199. 

No matter where you’re shopping, this is serious money for a piece of desktop equipment. 

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review: Features

  • Balanced and unbalanced outputs
  • Dual-core Burr Brown DAC chipset
  • Bluetooth 5.4 with aptX Lossless compatibility

Both the price-point and iFi’s sense of itself within the market insist that the iDSD Diablo 2 be exhaustively specified, groaning under the weight of its list of features. And so it proves.

It’s not an especially small device, the iDSD Diablo 2, but nevertheless each end is crammed with connections and controls. At the front, there are 6.3mm unbalanced and 4.4mm balanced outputs – the latter is recommended for use with xMEMS solid state driver headphones, and there’s a switch directly above it to let the iFi know if it’s connected to xMEMS headphones or not. A three-position switch allows you to select a power mode – ‘normal’, ‘turbo’ and ‘nitro’ are available, and these are very excitable ways of describing the additional power output that might be required to drive headphones of particular sensitivity. An LED lets you know what’s going on as regards file type and size (if you’ve made a wired connection) or codec type (if you’re using Bluetooth). A relatively large analogue volume control (with sliding lock) completes the front fascia line-up.

The rear panel, meanwhile, features a button to initiate Bluetooth pairing (the iFi has Bluetooth 5.4 on board, and is compatible with every codec from SBC and AAC to LDAC and aptX Lossless – although, as we shall see, getting confirmation that you’re streaming aptX Lossless is considerably more of a palaver than it should be). There’s also a 4.4mm balanced line-level input, and a hybrid 3.5mm input for either optical or coaxial digital information. Two USB-C sockets complete the set – one if for connection to mains power or to charge the internal battery, and the other is for data transfer. This last is a big improvement on the original iDSD Diablo, which required an infernal (pun very much intended) arrangement of USB extension cables to make a connection. Although received wisdom says the battery is the cleaner and more effective way to power the Diablo 2, iFi also provides its iPower 2 power supply – it’s claimed to be ten times quieter than regular mains power supplies.

On the bottom of the chassis there’s a ‘IEMatch’ switch for use with in-ear monitors – the available positions are ‘4.4’, ‘6.35’ and off.

On the inside, the iDSD Diablo 2 is fitted with a dual-core Burr Brown digital-to-analogue chipset, providing support for digital audio files of every worthwhile type up to 768kHz and DSD512 as well as full MQA decoding. iFi has allied this formidable processing power to features it calls (with typical understatement) ‘PureWave’ (balanced dual-mono analogue amplification architecture), ‘Servoless DirectDrive’ (as direct and uncorrupted a signal path as possible) and ‘OptimaLoop’ (minimisation of distortion and phase sound).

iFi suggests the iDSD Diablo 2 has an enormous five-watt output, which would be more than enough to drive even the most recalcitrant headphones without any of the gain intervention options iFi supplies. Like so much in life, though, iFi’s claims for the power that’s on tap here are the subject of some debate. These five watts are a peak power measurement, rather than RMS continuous power – and iFi’s measurement window is not open for as long as is standard around the wider industry. Still, at this point the argument is academic – the way the Diablo 2 performs will dictate whether or not we should all get hung up on power ratings… 

Features score: 5 / 5

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 closeup, showing headphone jacks

Note the 'wings'  (Image credit: Future)

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review: Design

  • 29 x 85 x 166mm (HxWxD)
  • 455g
  • Multiple positioning options

In absolute terms, the iDSD Diablo 2 isn’t an especially large device, but at 29 x 85 x 166mm (HxWxD) it still takes up valuable desktop space. So iFi has wisely made positioning it as flexible as possible, thanks to a reworked chassis that replaces the original Diablo’s smooth casework with an arrangement of 22 ‘rails’ that help cooling. Eight of these rails can each accept one of the four ‘wings’ supplied with the product, which allows it to be positioned either vertically or horizontally.

As well as these supporting ‘wings’, the iDSD Diablo 2 also comes with the iPower 2 power supply, short and long(er) USB-C cables, short USB-C / Lightning cable, USB-C / USB-A adapter, Toslink optical adapter and a 3.5mm / 6.3mm headphone adapter. It’s also supplied with an ‘iTraveller’ soft carrying case, into which almost all of these accessories will fit without problems.

Design score: 4.5 / 5  

iFi iDSD Diablo 2's underside, detailing the ports

Everything in its right place…  (Image credit: Future)

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review: Sound quality

  • Direct, unequivocal performance
  • Detailed, quite lean sound 
  • Could conceivably be more dynamic

A desktop device like this requires a desktop, so the iDSD Diablo 2 is connected via USB-C to an Apple MacBook Pro (2020) running Colibri software in order to deliver properly high-resolution digital audio files. It’s connected to several pairs of headphones – the majority of this testing is conducted using Sennheiser IE900 in-ear monitors and a pair of Austrian Audio ‘The Composer’ over-ears, both using their 4.4mm cable. For the sake of good form, both iOS and Android smartphones are used to check out the iFi’s Bluetooth capability, too. 

But it’s safe to say that no matter the headphones or the source device, or in fact the sort of music that’s on the go (and my testing includes everything from 16bit/44.1kHz files of Doris Troy’s What-cha Gonna Do About It and Lambchop’s The Daily Growl to a 24bit/192kHz file of David Bowie’s Be My Wife and a DSD64 copy of Stevie Wonder’s Living for the City), the attitude and character of the iDSD Diablo 2 doesn’t really alter all that much. This is a swift, articulate and detailed listen, with the sort of muscle-mass of a distance runner and similar manoeuvrability. If you came for vaulting dynamism and/or overtly stocky low frequencies, you might want to look elsewhere. Everyone else, though, should listen long and hard…

At every turn, the iFi keeps a close eye on the fine details and the broad strokes, and manages to put every element of a recording into proper context. It travels from the bottom of the frequency range to the top in a smoothly convincing manner, and is able to generate a genuine sense of unity and ‘performance’ from a recording. It’s possible to tilt its frequency response just slightly towards the top end if you use unsympathetic headphones, but in almost every circumstance the iDSD Diablo 2 is a confident, balanced listen.

It creates a big, open soundstage and organises it well. It’s able to find space for the most transient aspects of a recording even in the busiest mixes, keeps every element of it at arm’s length from the others in order for it to have the necessary space to express itself - and yet ties it all together almost effortlessly. It’s almost fanatical in its attention to the small harmonic variations that lesser amplifiers are happy to overlook.

Control of the lowest frequencies is absolute – and the alacrity of their attack and decay means the iFi gives good expression to rhythms. There’s a lack of bulk or substance to the bottom end it produces, though – there’s no shortage of bass extension, but there’s not a huge amount of weight to the low end, and the iDSD Diablo 2 can sound relatively lightweight as a result. When it comes to the biggest dynamic shifts in volume or intensity, it doesn’t seem to have all that much reach either – possibly because this is a very loud amplifier even when it’s playing quietly. 

For all of its gain and sensitivity controls, the iFi sounds like it’s giving you everything it’s got right from the off – which just doesn’t leave it much headroom when the going gets louder still.

Sound quality score: 4.5 / 5 

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 and Sennheiser iE900, on a wooden table

The bulk of my testing was done with the Sennheiser IE900 or the Austrian Audio 'The Composer'  (Image credit: Future)

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review: Usability & setup

  • Simple to operate
  • Some mild Bluetooth weirdness 
  • Short cables can be an issue

On a fundamental level, the iDSD Diablo 2 is a piece of cake to operate. Its controls are all physical, its volume dial operates at well-judged increments and the volume dial lock is a nice touch too. If you can plug a source of music and pair of headphones in, you’re in business.

The length of cables supplied are a minor irritation, though. To connect my MacBook Pro (2020) to the iFi, the USB-C / USB-C is required – but the braided cable is so short that there’s next-to-no ability to adjust its position on the desk. I have numerous USB-C / USB-C cables of various lengths in my home, I’ll admit, and iFi supplies a more useful length of much less impressive quality – but I can’t imagine it would carve into iFi’s profit margin too much to supply a braided cable, say, twice as long as this one.

Both my iOS and my Android smartphones see, and pair with, the iDSD Diablo 2 quickly enough. Once the connection is made, the LED on the iFi’s fascia glows yellow to indicate the AAC codec – because that’s iPhones for you. But an Asus smartphone gives every impression of streaming aptX Adaptive (green LED) even though it’s able to deal with aptX Lossless (white LED).  

Usability & setup score: 4/5

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 on its side, showing the file indicator light

This white light (for aptX Lossless) was oddly hard to come by when using sources able to handle it…  (Image credit: Future)

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review: Value

It’s nigh-on impossible to suggest the iFi iDSD Diablo 2 isn’t a profound improvement on the sound to be achieved by plugging your headphones directly into a smartphone, say, or a laptop. 

As a desktop audio device, then, it makes a lot of sense if you’re the sort of person who takes listening this way seriously enough to have invested in capable headphones and a lot of high-resolution digital audio files. For ‘casual’ or ‘recreational’ listeners, though, a device that demands such equally accomplished (and correspondingly expensive) partnering equipment has to be considered overkill. 

Value score: 4/5

iFi iDSD close-up of the front fascia, on wooden table

Note the new 'rails' on the casework to help with cooling (Image credit: Future)

Should you buy iFi iDSD Diablo 2?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review: Also consider

iFi iDSD Diablo of the branding on the casework, silver on red

iFi makes strong design choices and you love to see it (Image credit: Future)

How I tested the iFi iDSD Diablo 2 review:

  • Various headphones
  • Various audio file types and sizes
  • Various sources of music

For an almost-unbroken week, the iFi iDSD Diablo 2 sat next to my laptop, and played music either from the machine’s memory (using a wired connection) or from one of a few smartphones (using Bluetooth). Music stored as MP3, FLAC and DSD files was used, and headphones from ‘moderately pricey’ to ‘extremely expensive’ were plugged into both the balanced and unbalanced outputs…  

First reviewed April 2024

Lenco L-3810 review: striking the perfect chord between analog and digital
2:00 pm | April 20, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Turntables | Tags: | Comments: Off

Lenco L-3810: Two-minute review

The Lenco L-3810 proves that lightning can indeed strike twice. After all, this isn't the first time Lenco has delivered a product with the sort of specification and functionality that makes a bit of a mockery of its asking price. The L-3810 may not be the answer to an audiophile vinyl-fancier’s prayers, but if you’re thinking of dipping a toe into the vinyl water without a) chucking money at it or b) forgoing a nicety or two, it’s a solid option.

It’s not, strictly speaking, a plug-and-play device – but it’s not far off. The headshell must be fitted, but it already has its Audio Technica 3600 cartridge fitted and adjusted. You have to put the platter onto the spindle and the slip mat onto the platter, and set the counterweight and anti-skate controls. But really, apart from connecting it to the mains and to your amplifier or wireless speaker, that’s about it.

Specification is very impressive at the money, too. The L-3810 is a direct drive turntable, which will please any budding superstar DJs. It’s got pitch control, a target light and a stroboscope too – so it looks the part. And thanks to an integrated phono stage, it can be connected to pretty much any system with an analogue input. It even has an analogue-to-digital converter behind its USB-B socket, so archiving your vinyl as digital audio files can be done too. 

When it comes to the actual business of playing records, there’s plenty to like about the L-3810 that's comparable to the best turntables. It’s decently punchy and rapid, ties every element of a recording together confidently, extracts a fair amount of detail and summons a good amount of drive. It’s adept with rhythms and tempos, too. A lack of high-frequency extension and attack makes it sound rather duller than it otherwise would, though. 

Lenco L-3810 review: Price and release date

The Lenco L-3180 playing a record

(Image credit: Future)
  • Released in March 2024
  • Priced at $499 / £279 / AU$499

The Lenco L-3810 turntable was announced as a super affordable option for vinyl and mixing beginners in late February and went on sale in March 2024. In the US, you should expect to pay $499, while in the UK, it goes for £279 and in Australia it will cost you AU$499.

As far as functionality is concerned, there’s quite a lot here by turntable standards, and it demonstrably doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. So well done Lenco, you have already piqued everyone’s interest. 

Lenco L-3810 review: Features

the back of the Lenco L-3810 turntable with its ports visible

(Image credit: Future)
  • USB-B output
  • Switchable phono stage
  • Audio Technica 3600 moving magnet cartridge

It’s fair to say that the Lenco L-3810 is more fully featured than your average turntable. In fact, it makes your average belt-driven, one-function turntable look a bit remedial.

First of all, this is a direct-drive turntable, meaning the platter is connected directly to the motor that turns it. It’s an arrangement more commonly seen in pro/DJ equipment, because it offers both superior rotational stability and the ability to reach the correct rotational speed very quickly indeed. 

Lenco has taken a lot of other cues, where features are concerned, from the established ‘DJ deck’ specification. The L-3810 has a stroboscope to confirm its platter is turning at precisely 33.3 or 45rpm. It has a target light, to help when cueing up vinyl in dimmer conditions. And it has a pitch control slider (+/= 10%) in case you would prefer the platter to turn at a speed other than 33.3 or 45rpm.

The ‘J’-shaped tonearm has a bayonet fitting for the headshell, which is in turn supplied with a very acceptable Audio Technica 3600 moving magnet cartridge pre-fitted and -adjusted. 

At the rear of the chassis, along with the more usual input for power and stereo RCA outputs for connection to an amplifier, one of the best wireless speakers or what-have-you, there are two further features that serve to set the Lenco further apart from the mainstream turntable herd. One is a switch marked ‘phono/line’ – this switches the integrated pre-amplification on or off, depending on the type of system you’re connecting the Lenco to. The other is a USB-B output. Using this to connect to a PC loaded with the appropriate software (I like Audacity, but others are available) allows you to make digital copies of your vinyl in real time.  

Features score: 5/5

Lenco L-3810 review: Sound quality

The Lenco L-3180 on a table with speakers on either side of it

(Image credit: Future)
  • Good sense of rhythm
  • Punchy, quite driving presentation
  • Needs greater treble presence

First things first: if your current system doesn’t include any phono amplification, you’ll be very glad Lenco included some here. If it does, however, it’s well worth conducting an ‘A/B’ comparison between it and the L-3810’s phono stage – the amplification Lenco has fitted here is functional, certainly, but it’s nothing special.

Equally, if it’s the DJ-centric features that have caught your eye then you may need to temper your expectations a little. Yes, the direct drive arrangement here means the L-3810 comes up to speed nice and quickly when compared to a belt-driven alternative - but it’s not the instantaneous ‘go!’ of a true DJ design, and it can take a revolution or two before the platter is spinning at a stable and consistent speed. And that Audio Technica 3600 may be a very capable cartridge, but it won’t thank you for trying out a bit of scratching…

As a straight-ahead record player, though, the L-3810 has a fair bit to recommend it. It’s very ‘together’ in terms of its presentation, for starters – the sense of unity and singular it can create is impressive, and it makes a recording like The The’s I’ve Been Waiting For Tomorrow (All of My Life) sound like a performance, rather than a collection of individual events. This is one of the characteristics that the vinyl format is prized for, and the Lenco makes good on the promise.

It integrates the frequency range well too, and from the lowest frequencies to the top of the midrange it’s an even, quite detailed listen that strikes a nicely naturalistic balance. There’s a definite shortage of top-end extension and energy, though, a lack of treble sparkle or attack that can make the overall presentation sound just slightly dull and blunt. What treble presence there is integrates properly with the rest of the frequency information, mind you.

As far as dynamic headroom is concerned, the L-3810 plays things slightly safe – which, in the context of the system it’s likely to find itself part of, is probably sensible. It alludes to changes in intensity or sheer volume rather than pouncing on them, which makes for an easy listen that’s not quite as visceral with a recording like FKA twigs’ Two Weeks as it really should be. Harmonic variations are quite readily identified, though – as long as they don’t occur up at the top of the frequency range.

Low frequency grip and control of the FKA twigs album is good, though – bass sounds are straight-edged at the moment of attack, which means momentum is decent and rhythmic expression is straightforwardly good. There’s a reasonable amount of punch to the Lenco’s sound, and a fair amount of impetus as a result.

All of this applies, to a lesser or greater extent, to the digital copies the Lenco is capable of creating. Obviously the analogue-to-digital conversion process takes some of the heat (and some of the detail) out of the vinyl sound, and the lack of top-end confidence is always apparent – but if you’re after some digital versions of your favourite vinyl for use when you’re not sitting in front of your L-3810, you could definitely do worse.

Sound quality score: 3.5/5 

Lenco L-3810 review: Design

The Lenco L-3180 playing a record

(Image credit: Future)
  • Pastic chassis
  • Clear dust cover
  • Looks just like a record player

When it comes to the design of a turntable, every manufacturer has to make a binary choice: it either goes with the basic ‘rectangle with a circle on it, plus tonearm’ or ‘control-heavy alternative a la Technics’. There’s no shame in either. Lenco has gone for the second option – it’s decided its L-3810 should look like a junior SL-1200.

Without its clear plastic dust-cover, the L-3810 measures an unremarkable 151 x 450 x 365mm (HxWxD). The chassis (which is available in white or grey finishes) is made of plastic, the platter that supports your vinyl is made of aluminium, and the slipmat that sits between them is felt. The ‘J’-shaped tonearm is made of aluminium, too.

The main body of the turntable stands on four big, rubber-bushed plastic feet that have a degree of articulation.Which is handy both for helping the deck stay level, and also to isolate it a little from external vibrations.

There’s nothing luxurious about the way the Lenco L-3810 looks or feels, and its all-in weight of just over 4kg lets you know it’s not the last word in solidity. But then when you consider the asking price, compare it to the feature set, and then bear in mind the competence with which this record player is built and finished, ‘nothing luxurious’ seems absolutely fair enough.

Design score: 4.5/5 

Lenco L-3810 review: Usability and setup

A closeup of the stop/start button on the Lenco L-3810

(Image credit: Future)
  • Cartridge is pre-fitted and pre-adjusted
  • Controls are reliable and responsive
  • Phono stage is defeatable 

All you need to do to get the L-3810 ready to play is put the aluminium platter on the spindle and put the felt slipmat on top of it, attach the headshell, fit and adjust the counterweight, and finesse the anti-skate control. Or, at least, that’s all you have to do to get it ready to play a record - if you want to actually hear it, you’ll need to connect the stereo RCA outputs on the rear to your amplifier, speaker or whatever, and then establish whether or not the Lenco’s integrated phono stage needs to be switched on or off. 

Setup, then, is pretty simple. And usability is simple, too – the ‘power on/off’ dial, the ‘stop/start’ button, the pitch control and the speed selector all operate smoothly, and the manual tonearm lift feels robust, too. There’s really nothing here that’s going to create even a moment’s confusion. About the trickiest part of operating the Lenco is getting to grips with the third-party software that’s required if you’re going to make digital copies via its USB-B output. 

Usability and setup score: 5/5

Lenco L-3810 review: Value

The Lenco L-3180 playing a record

(Image credit: Future)
  • Great performance for the price
  • Not suitable for amateur DJs

There’s certainly no arguing with the functionality Lenco provides at the asking price, and it’s difficult to take meaningful issue with the way the L-3810 is built and finished either. 

It’s not a realistic proposition for anyone who takes DJing even half-seriously, of course – but when it comes to system compatibility, very acceptable digital versions of your vinyl and a politely forceful overall sound, the L-3810 offers pretty decent value for money.

Should you buy the Lenco L-3810 review?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Lenco L-3810 review: Also consider

How I tested the Lenco L-3810

The Lenco L-3180 playing a record

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for over a week
  • Listened by itself and with a reference pre-amp 
  • Made digital copies of vinyl on my MacBook Pro 

The Lenco L-3810 replaced my reference turntable on the top shelf of my home system, and it stayed there for well over a week while I listened to (and occasionally copied) records. 

It played via its internal phono amplification and via my reference pre-amp, and it was connected via its USB-B output to my MacBook Pro in order to see what sort of digital copies it makes.

Brane X review: a portable smart speaker with incredible bass
1:00 pm | March 10, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Brane Audio Brane X: Two-minute review

Brane Audio’s Brane X has managed to achieve the unthinkable in the mostly mundane realm of the best wireless speakers, which – to be clear – is full of models that don’t leave much of an impression. Some are good, some are okay, and many are bad. But the Brane X makes an impression. 

The main way the Brane X impresses is by delivering bass output extending into the sub-bass range. That’s unheard of for a portable speaker. Still, the Brane X isn’t an ordinary portable speaker, but one with proprietary Repel-Attract-Driver (R.A.D.) technology that uses a magnet array to cancel out air pressure within the speaker’s enclosure. This allows big bass to be generated from a small woofer in a highly compact box, and it needs to be heard to be believed.

Aside from its sub-bass output capability, the Brane X comes off as a normal-looking portable wireless speaker. It has a lunchbox-like form, complete with a carrying handle, and an unassuming design. Its built-in battery carries a charge for up to 12 hours of playback time and requires three hours to fully recharge. The IP57-rated speaker is dust and waterproof, making it ideal for both indoor and outdoor use.

Wireless streaming support includes Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth 5.1. An app lets you configure bass and custom EQ settings, and it can also be used to group multiple Brane X speakers for multi-room playback. Controls to adjust volume and bass level are located on the speaker’s top surface, and there are built-in mics for Alexa voice control.

Sound quality is where the Brane X makes its mark by delivering a notably dynamic and detailed sound for a portable speaker. Hip-hop, techno, rock, and even classical music are equally well served, with the speaker’s deep bass providing a strong foundation for other layers in music mixes. Voices, in particular, sound natural – something that benefits both music and podcasts – and the Brane X also manages to convey a sense of stereo separation and depth.

The catch with the Brane X, and you probably saw this coming, is that its performance comes at a price. At $599 (around £475 / AU$915), it’s more expensive than other premium portable speakers such as the Sonos Move 2 ($449 / £449 / AU$799). That factor makes the Brane X a tough sell if you simply want a portable speaker for casual outdoor and indoor listening, but if you’re looking for one with best-in-class sound quality, the Brane X is it.

Brane X review: Price and release date

Brane X smart speaker on table

The Brane X has a lunchbox-like design with a carrying strap for toting it around (Image credit: Future)
  • Released December 2023
  • Currently available only in US
  • Priced at $599 (around £475 / AU$915)

The Brane X is currently sold exclusively through Brane Audio and is only available for shipment in the US. International shipments will start in late 2024 according to the company’s website.

At $599 (around £475 / AU$915) the Brane X is very much on the pricey side for a portable wireless speaker, though it has sonic tricks up its sleeve that the competition lacks. To put it in context, you can buy a Sonos Move 2 for $449 / £449 / AU$799, which gets you a portable wireless speaker with a similar feature set plus twice the battery life. You can also spend quite a bit more on the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5 ($1,099 / £899 / AU$1,950), a portable wireless speaker that generally looks similar to the Brane X, but has a more attractive design that’s typical for that brand.

Brane X review: Specs

Brane X smart speaker on table showing top controls

Capacitive touch controls are located on the speaker's top surface (Image credit: Future)

Brane X review: Features

Brane X smart speaker on table next to Sonos Move

The Sonos Move 2 (at left) was used for a comparison in our Brane X (at right) listening tests (Image credit: Future)
  • Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth support 
  • Voice control using Amazon Alexa
  • Built-in battery provides 12 hours playback time

Brane Audio’s Brane X streams music wirelessly via Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and also supports Bluetooth 5.1. A Brane app is available and can be used to select low, medium, and high Bass presets for best sound (most likely dependent on where the speaker is located), create a custom 5-band EQ setting, and store speaker groups for multi-room playback on multiple Brane X speakers. There are four built-in microphones for voice control, which is carried out using the Alexa voice assistant.

The driver array of the Brane X consists of two 0.75-inch tweeters, two 2-inch mid-range drivers, and a 6.5 by 9-inch (165 x 229mm) woofer. Four class-D amplifiers are packed into the compact speaker, for a total of 200 watts of power. A built-in battery allows 12 hours of playback at a reasonable volume level, and it can be fully recharged in 3 hours.

I would be amiss to describe the bass driver in the Brane X simply as a “woofer,” since the company applies unique technology to it to achieve extended bass. Woofers in conventional speakers generate bass by moving forward and back in an enclosure. That movement is driven by the passage of magnets on the woofer’s voice coil through a magnetic field, and it affects the air pressure within the speaker.

Brane Audio’s Repel-Attract-Driver operates similarly to a regular woofer, but in this instance, additional magnets are used to cancel out air pressure within the speaker. The cancellation effect allows for the use of a smaller woofer, along with a smaller enclosure, enabling Brane Audio to generate powerful sub-bass from a lunchbox-size speaker.

  • Features score: 4.5/5

Brane X review: Sound quality

Brane X smart speaker on table  showing back panel

The speaker's rear panel features a power on/off button and 3.5mm audio input (Image credit: Future)
  • Excellent bass extension and substantial output
  • Well-balanced sound with natural voice reproduction
  • Can play cleanly at party-like volume levels

The Brane X may be compact, but there’s nothing small about its sound. After reading about this portable speaker that’s capable of not just substantial bass extension, but also substantial sub-bass output, I was ready for something different and upon first listen I got that.

Getting straight down to business, I streamed Boom by Tiësto, Sevenn, and Gucci Mane to the speaker from Tidal HiFi via AirPlay. This is a track with bass to spare, and if the Brane X could handle that, it would pass the test. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my mouth flapped open when I heard the deep, pounding bass put out by the Brane X, which wasn’t far off from what I expect to hear from a hi-fi system with a capable subwoofer. The speaker’s extended dynamic range also allowed other elements in the mix to come through clearly, especially vocals, which had a natural, unstrained quality. Pushing up the volume to, naturally, satisfy my curiosity about how loud the Brane X could play, it went up to party-like levels without distorting or sounding congested.

Radiohead’s Desert Island Disks features a spare acoustic guitar that’s played over a low, pulsing beat. On my regular portable speaker, the Sonos Move 2, that beat comes across as more of a tap. When I played the song on the Brane X, however, it had a surprising low and full quality that dynamically anchored the sound and allowed for details in vocals along with the song’s more subtle ambient elements to come across clearly.

Even classical symphonic music fared well on the Brane X. When I streamed Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition – The Great Gate of Kiev, as played by the Cleveland Orchestra, on Tidal HiFi, the tympani rolls were conveyed in an appropriately thunderous manner and the volume sweeps of strings sounded smooth and convincing. Comparing the Brane X’s performance here again to my reference Sonos speaker, the Sonos came across as comparatively flat-sounding, with no sense of low-end muscle in the percussion and double basses.

Given the Brane X’s hi-fi prowess, it seemed almost weird to set it up in my kitchen in the spot normally occupied by my Sonos Move, where it is used mainly for listening to news and podcasts. When I did, I found I needed to dial down the bass in the app for best sound in the new spot. That done, the Brane X made voices sound completely natural, with none of the strained quality that can typically be heard when listening with low-cost Bluetooth speakers. Brane Audio’s portable may have been overkill in this setting, but I certainly wasn’t eager to swap it out.

The only sonic quirk I encountered when using the Brane X was a faint level of noise when the speaker was turned on but not being used for playback. This didn’t exactly bother me, and in most cases when I had the speaker turned on it was streaming audio, which fully masked the noise, but it was there nonetheless.

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

Brane X review: Design

Brane X smart speaker on table  showing bottom moiunted woofer

The Brane X's bottom-mounted woofer (Image credit: Future)
  • Basic, unassuming design
  • Carrying strap for portable use
  • 1P57-rated dust and waterproof

There’s nothing particularly fancy about the Brane X’s design. As noted in the Features section of this review, it’s about the size and shape of a lunchbox. A rubber carrying strap is attached for toting the speaker around, and the black plastic top surface contains capacitive touch controls to adjust volume and bass level, as well as toggle the microphones on and off and set up Bluetooth and Wi-Fi pairing mode. A black mesh grille covers the speaker’s full front surface and sturdy rubber feet are provided to secure the speaker and allow clearance for the bottom-mounted Repel-Attract-Driver.

The Brane X’s back panel features a power on/off button and a 3.5mm aux input for connecting sources like a disc player or turntable. You’ll also find an input here for the speaker’s large, bulky external power supply and a QR code to access the Brane Audio website. With an IP57 rating, the Brane X is both dust and waterproof, making it a solid option for a workshop and a pool party.

  • Design score: 4/5

Brane X review: Value

Brane X smart speaker on table  with sonos move in background

(Image credit: Future)
  • Expensive compared to the competition
  • Unique among portable wireless speakers
  • Has sound quality to back up the high price

With a $599 (around £475 / AU$915) price tag, the Brane X is undoubtedly expensive, making other premium portable wireless speakers such as the Sonos Move 2 look like a bargain in comparison. But the Brane X sounds better and certainly delivers better bass than the Sonos Move 2, which is its top competition. There is nothing quite like it on the market, a factor that enhances its value.

Suppose you’re looking for a compact portable wireless speaker that doesn’t sound like a compact portable wireless speaker, but a regular stereo system with a subwoofer instead. In that case, the Brane X is your only option. Yes, it’s expensive, but it has the sound quality to back up the high price.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should you buy the Brane X?

Buy it if…

Don't buy it if…

Brane X review: Also consider

Brane X smart speaker review: How I tested

Brane X smart speaker on deck railing outdoors

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested with music streamed from Tidal HiFi and Apple Music via AirPlay
  • Used Sonos Move 2 for comparison during listening tests
  • Tested over several weeks of both casual and critical listening

I tested the Brane X using a range of different music genres from hip-hop to classical and also used it for everyday listening to news internet radio stations and podcasts. During my testing, which lasted for several weeks, I moved it around to different rooms in my home and also gave it a listen outdoors.

I used a Bluetooth wireless connection from my iPhone for casual listening but switched to AirPlay 2 for critical listening during my review. Most music tracks played during my test were sourced from Tidal HiFi, with some played from Apple Music. For a direct comparison with a competitive speaker, I used a Sonos Move 2, switching between both speakers using the same music tracks to make a subjective listening comparison.

My audio reviewing experience extends back over two decades, and during that time I have tested everything from full surround sound speaker systems to subwoofers and soundbars. 

You can read TechRadar's review guarantee here.

  • First reviewed: March 2024
Audio Pro C20 review: a wireless speaker that offers even more, and sounds even better
1:30 pm | March 9, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Tags: | Comments: Off

Audio Pro C20: Two minute review

The Audio Pro C20 has a lot of connectivity options. As anyone familiar with the category of best wireless speakers knows, a box of drivers that's able to harness your home's Wi-Fi network can offer superior sound to that afforded by a Bluetooth connection, whether music is accessed via Google Cast, Apple's AirPlay, 'connected' services such as Tidal Connect (which actually lets you stream losslessly in 24-bit hi-res, where AirPlay taps out at 16-bit CD quality) or a dedicated multi-room app such as the Audio Pro Control app. And the Audio Pro C20 offers all of this. 

But just quickly, let's explain why Audio Pro's latest wireless speaker is worth your time from a technical perspective. First off, pinging music over Bluetooth from phone to speaker incurs compression. Wi-Fi's higher bandwidth means you can listen in (very) high resolution, up to 24-bit/192kHz. Now, a Wi-Fi enabled speaker accesses your chosen tunes from the internet (or local drive connected to it) rather than from your phone itself – and if you walk into another room or take a call, as long as you stay within range of your Wi-Fi router, the music keeps playing.

Why explain this in the intro to a product review? Because Audio Pro gets it. The Swedish company's been in the game for 40 years and the firm gets that we want more than one open gate leading to our music. Also, we now have plenty of kit we'd like to physically connect our shiny new speaker to, if possible (and thank you very much in advance). So, on top of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming, Audio Pro has added to the sizeable C20 a compelling array of ports on the back: an RCA in (for turntables with an RIAA amp), a phono MM in (for moving-magnet cartridge decks without a phono stage), an RCA sub out (if you wanted to connect a dedicated subwoofer to it), a Toslink Optical in (for CD players or budget soundbars, say) and the arguably the biggest draw of the lot – an HDMI ARC in, so it can go straight into your TV and challenge some of the best soundbars. So long as it'll fit beneath it without obscuring the screen, that is. 

Audio Pro C20 on a table, with a mug of coffee and a smartphone beside it

The grille attaches easily with magnets and offers clean lines, if you want those…  (Image credit: Future)

What you need to know is this: this thing sounds fantastic, offering clarity, depth, excitement and finesse, even at higher volumes. The control app is easy to navigate and corrals all of your chosen music streaming services – but of course, you could go into each app on your phone and click the little Google cast or AirPlay icon to see the C20 ready to connect.

Audio Pro calls the C20 the complete solution for music and TV and it's hard to argue. It's also hard to imagine a home interior, color scheme or decor style that the Audio Pro C20 couldn't be friends with – and the grille can remain on or easily be whipped off, if you prefer to see its three talented drivers.

The metal top plate adds an extra touch of class and the buttons click nicely, in a build that feels both reverent to traditional techniques and yet strikingly modern. 

The fact that it comes from a long line of hits means it doesn't come cheap though. I've written odes to Audio Pro's beautiful speakers and I helped review the slightly smaller Audio Pro Addon C10 MkII for TechRadar's sister site, What Hi-Fi?, so I can personally vouch the five-star rating there (and the multiple awards it subsequently gained), although I fear those likely didn't do much to keep prices low. 

In summary, it's chic, it's unique and it's (virtually) the complete package. Why virtually? If you wanted a 3.5mm in for your headphones (or 4.4mm, 6.35mm, or XLR), you won't find it – you'd have to go the the FiiO R9 for that. The C20 is for the enjoyment of shared music. And what an experience that is. 

Audio Pro C20 review: Price and release date

  • Unveiled January 8, 2024, shipping from March 2024
  • $550 / £450 / €550 (around AU$820)

The Audio Pro C20 is available for pre-order now, and ships from March 2024. In the US, it costs $550 and in the UK, it'll set you back £450, hardly a trifling sum, whatever whistles and bells it sports. 

That said, the competition here isn't much more affordable. Yes, the Q Acoustics M40 HD is (excellent and) a music system squirrelled into a set of speakers, but as far as wireless connectivity goes, it's a Bluetooth only one. Then, there's the fantastic FiiO R9, with all of the connectivity and hi-res wireless streaming smarts you could wish for, as long as you'll provide your own speakers or headphones. 

Sonus Faber and Naim also offer similar solutions – see the Naim Mu-so Qb, a 2019 release which doesn't boast an HDMI ARC input, support, or the Sonus Faber Omnia, which does – but while the former is now available for similar money to the C20, the latter is a lot more expensive… 

Audio Pro C20 from the back, showing the ports

Audio Pro sports so many connections, it advises you on which to use for different kinds of turntable…  (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20 review: Specs

Audio Pro C20 review: Features

  • Built in RIAA amplifier
  • Google Cast, Apple AirPlay and Audio Pro's own multi-room audio option

By adding a phono stage to its latest masterwork, Audio Pro C20 can be plugged straight into your devoid-of-phono turntable (as long as it sports a moving magnet cartridge), allowing you to simply power it on, select 'phono' on the Audio Pro's top plate, lower that needle and get into the groove. Got one of the best turntables with an RIAA amp inbuilt? That's OK too, there's a separate RCA line in for you too. 

Of course, this is Audio Pro, so the new C20 also features the winning multi-room option triumvirate that the company introduced with the 2021-release Addon C10 MkII: AirPlay 2, Google Cast, plus its own multi-room audio capability. You also get Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth (v5.0) and HDMI ARC – so you can hook it straight up to your TV. 

Thanks to a combination of these these things, you can also re-stream music (including vinyl from your turntable) to other Audio Pro speakers you may have collected from its A, C, or D-series, in a wireless multi-room system around your home (and you don't even have to start making holes in your walls).

The C20 also offers the option of connecting an external subwoofer via its sub-out (the company would direct you to its own Audio Pro SW-5 or SW10) enabling you to enhance the C20's bass performance even further, should you wish – although I didn't find this necessary. 

Finally, two C20’s can be set-up as a stereo pair using the Audio Pro app, or even via Apple Airplay 2. I think you'll agree, that's a lot of options. If you want a 3.5mm headphone jack, you won't find it… but do you really? 

Features score: 5/5

Audio Pro C20 top-plate closeup, with a hand pressing one of the buttons

That's a lot of options – and six presets  (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20 review: Sound quality

  • Clarity, neutrality and detail in spades
  • Ample bass clout without muddying the soundstage
  • Not an omnidirectional solution

Simply put, the Audio Pro C20 sounds very good indeed, whether physically hooked up to your TV or turntable, or when commanded to play music by your phone. You might anticipate having to make a compromise when buying a jack-of-all-trades box – a minor hit on sound in return for something that works with everything – but not so here. 

Coheed and Cambria's In Keeping Secrets of the Silent Earth: 3 accessed on Tidal Connect is a raucous proggy album and the C20 never shies away from any of it, serving indomitable energy across the frequencies in a cohesive but rigorously regimented mix. 

Given delicate string progressions such as Joni Mitchell's A Case of You, Mitchell's textured vocal soars above her dynamically agile and three-dimensional Appalachian dulcimer (and James Taylor's emotive acoustic guitar) where each musical passage is given enough space to have the necessary impact the track. 

When handling TV content, the C20 is an easy (easy!) step up from anything my Sony TV's speakers can do, opening out the sound and offering that extra ounce of detail through intakes of breath and clacks of high-heeled shoes on cobbles in Shetland

It's not a Dolby Atmos solution, of course, and the sound isn't particularly omnidirectional (owing to the C20's design), but there's a wide soundstage here nonetheless. 

However I listened to it across the course of my testing, the C20 continued to delight and entertain with its myriad connectivity perks, ease of use and gifted audio chops. 

Sound quality score: 5/5

Audio Pro C20 on a wooden table, with a smartphone to show scale

The remote certainly adds value – although volume adjustment is a slightly blunt affair  (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20: Design

  • 2x 30W and 1x 130W digital class D amplifiers
  • Removable grille
  • Choice of three finishes

The Audio Pro C20 is available in Soft Satin White, Stylish Grey or Classic Black. The woven fabric front is fixed to the C20 by magnets and can be easily removed, giving the option of two very different looks, depending on your favored aesthetic. 

I like to take off the grille off to better hear (and observe) Audio Pro's iconic eyes-and-nose style driver configuration, as seen in the brand's beloved T3+, C5 MkII and C10 MkII, for starters. Here, you get two 30W and one 130W Digital Class D amplifiers, powering the C20's dual 1-inch tweeters and a 6.5-inch woofer.

At 41cm across,19.6cm high and 22cm deep (and weighing in at 6.2kg, which roughly the same as a gallon of paint), the C20 is a substantial thing and while it fits under my wall-mounted TV just fine, those thinking of using it as a soundbar will need to think about that height. 

My 'Stylish Grey' sample is just that. The gold-tone top plate (with solo LEDs to denote which source you're using as well as lights around the six preset buttons) also helps and while the gold accent on the grille is gone (as seen on the C10 MkII) I don't miss it. Do I miss Audio Pro's glorious rock 'n' roll leather handle? A little, but I also concede that this isn't  proposition is not meant to be especially portable. 

It's always been hard to find fault with Audio Pro's build quality, and the C20 is no exception. 

Design score: 4.5/5

Audio Pro C20 on a TV stand, with a Sony TV in the background, connected via HDMI ARC

You need a bit of clearance, but it works with my TV (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20 review: Usability and setup

  • Simple, app-guided setup
  • App can handle your music – or not
  • No supplied remote

After powering the speaker on (in case it needs to be mentioned, the C20 needs to be plugged in to power at all times), you're quickly guided to the Audio Pro companion app, which will add the C20 to your Wi-FI network and generally do the rest. During my time with it, it neither crashed nor tripped up even momentarily. 

On the app, the 'Browse' tab (which seeks to keep your music all in one place) will open Apple Music natively through 'open on Apple Music' if using an iOS device, but third-party streaming services (such as Tidal) will require you to login again if going this route. You can also select the C20's source here, whether that's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, phono, line in (I hooked it up to the FiiO R9 before setting it up and it did a fantastic job), optical or TV. 

The central 'Device' tab in the app is meant to organise your speakers rather than your music, so here you can name your speaker, (either the model, or its placement in your home, such as 'kitchen') and with the C20 there's a three-band EQ tab for bass, treble and subwoofer out. 

The third and final 'Settings' tab basically lets you choose which services are displayed on 'Browse', as well as an FAQ section and details on the app version you're running. 

Audio Pro hasn't supplied a dedicated remote control in the box (although if you're using the HDMI ARC to your TV, you can just use your TV's remote for volume) and honestly, I don't miss it, because the app does the heavy lifting – or of course, you can use the premium top plate. 

Usability and setup score: 5/5 

Audio Pro C20 app, three screen-grabs on gray background

Audio Pro's companion app makes it really easy to group your music and your wireless speakers for multi-room audio  (Image credit: Future)

Audio Pro C20: Value

Obviously, if you don't have the expendable income to afford such a speaker, it doesn't matter how good it is – you won't be buying it. 

That said, Sonus Faber will offer you something with a similar spec sheet that's double the price, while Naim has an older option that offers less in terms of connectivity, but sounds excellent, for similar money (see below for a comparison of these products). 

My advice? You will not be disappointed with the sound-per-pound value here. 

Value score: 4.5/5 

Audio Pro C20 review: Should you buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Audio Pro C20: Also consider

Audio Pro C20 review: How I tested

  • Tested across seven days 
  • Used as a TV soundbar, wireless speaker, wired to the FiiO R9, wired to a turntable and as a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speaker
  • Listened to a variety of music; watched three episodes of an action-packed TV show

When testing the Audio Pro C20, the only connection I didn’t use was the subwoofer out – because honestly, I really like Audio Pro's tuning within its speakers and never felt the need to try to augment the low end. 

The analogue inputs accommodated both pre-amplified and non-amplified turntables, the digital optical was used for a CD player, the line in for FiiO R9 (as a source device), my TV was hooked up to it… and, of course, Bluetooth and my home Wi-Fi network were handy for using it with my iPhone. 

And then it's the usual: listening to lots of familiar music from my reference playlist, (as well as three episodes of Shetland on TV, which I'm really into and highly recommend – yes, I know I'm late to that particular party) at a variety of volume levels, for the duration of my testing. 

As a brief aside, I removed the grilles for the duration of my testing – it's what I always do whenever possible. Why? The fewer physical obstructions between you and your music, the better… 

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: a splendid all-in-one speaker system, down to the ground
1:00 pm | March 2, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Speakers | Comments: Off

Q Acoustics M40 HD: Two minute review

Understandably emboldened by the success of its wireless-system-in-a-pair-of-speakers M20 HD, Q Acoustics is back with a bigger, floorstanding version. But everything’s relative, of course – and while the M40 HD is a wireless-system-in-a-pair-of-floorstanding-speakers, (so not exactly unlike some of the best wireless speakers we've tested, but not altogether the same either) it’s a lot more compact than you might be expecting. This means it’s ideal for those customers who either don’t have much space to spare, or are unwilling to fill their spare space with great big speakers and h-fi separates.

Specification, with one or two exceptions, is very good – there are wired and wireless connectivity options, and hi-res audio capability through both the digital optical and USB-B inputs. 200 watts of power should be more than enough for most people (and most neighbours). The M40 HD represents the most affordable product so far to feature the new Q Acoustics Continuous Curved Cone (C3) driver. And aptX HD and aptX Adaptive are always welcome where Bluetooth connectivity is concerned. So while some users might hanker after some wi-fi action or a control app, there’s more than enough here to be getting on with.

As far as sound quality is concerned, there is plenty to enjoy here. The M40 HD is a perky, punchy and articulate listen, and as long as you don’t position it too close to a rear surface it’s nicely balanced too. Its sound is consistent no matter which of its inputs you use, and there doesn’t seem to be a type or source of music it doesn’t get along with. So if it’s a big sound from a less-than-big system you’re after, you need to give this Q Acoustics a listen pronto. 

A closeup of the Q Acoustics M40 HD grille and emblem

Q Acoustics' music system know-how, all the way to the floor…  (Image credit: Future)

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Price and release date

  • Released February 15, 2024
  • $999 / £749 / AU$1,999

The Q Acoustics M40 HD wireless music streaming system is on sale now, and in the United Kingdom it’s priced at £749. In the United States you should expect to pay $999, while in Australia the going rate is AU$1999.

That Q Acoustics knows exactly what it’s doing where products like this are concerned isn’t really up for question. But then neither is the fact that the M40 HD faces well-regarded competition – the likes of KEF, Klipsch and Triangle (to name but three) have fairly similar systems with which to tempt you. Q Acoustics, though, has a fairly obvious point of difference…

Q Acoustics M40 HD speaker rear view, showing the inputs

The M40 HD is arguably as beautiful from the back as it is when staring at the grille  (Image credit: Future)

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Features

  • 2 x 100W of power
  • Wired and wireless connectivity
  • 24-bit/192kHz hi-res compatibility

Each M40 HD loudspeaker features a decoupled tweeter positioned above two Continuous Curved Cone (C³) mid/bass drivers of the type first encountered in the company’s more expensive (and lately award-winning) 5000 series. Each has a bass reflex port towards the bottom of the rear of the cabinet, to help with low-frequency presence and punch. After that, though, they become slightly different.

In the case of the ‘secondary speaker’, the only other feature is a pair of speaker-cable binding posts just beneath that reflex port. The ‘primary’ speaker, by way of contrast, has plenty more going on.

As well as speaker binding posts, the ‘primary’ speaker has an output for mains power on its rear plate. It also has a pair of stereo RCA analogue inputs, a 3.5mm auxiliary sockets, and inputs for digital optical and USB-B - these last two are able to digital with incoming digital audio files of up to 24bit/192kHz resolution. There’s a switch to let the speaker know if it’s occupying the left or right position in the set-up, and whether it’s in free space, against a wall or in a corner. And there’s a pre-out for a subwoofer for the truly antisocial among us.

Wireless connectivity, meanwhile, is strictly via Bluetooth. It’s the 5.0 variation, with SBC, AAC, aptX HD and Low Latency codec compatibility. Some wi-fi connectivity would be nice, sure, but it seems safe to assume that Q Acoustics has balanced the feature-set against the eventual price and come up with a balance it’s pleased with.

The ‘primary’ speaker also takes care of amplifying both speakers (these are 'powered', rather than truly 'active' beasts). It features two Class D blocks of amplification, each of 100 watts. The M40 HD is supplied with a length of cable to connect the two speakers together – this, along with a connection to mains power, is the only wiring this wireless system requires.

Features score: 4.5/5

Q Acoustics M40 HD close-up on the top plate

They're still quite svelte, despite being obviously taller than Q Acoustics' bookshelf offerings  (Image credit: Future)

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Sound quality

  • Energy and dynamism to spare 
  • Strikes a nice balance between ‘insight’ and ‘entertainment’ 
  • A moment’s care with positioning is required

It becomes apparent after next-to-no listening that the Q Acoustics M40 HD prefer to be out in just a little open space, not hard against a rear wall, and toed in just a little towards your listening position. They don’t throw in the towel if some or all of this is not possible in your space, you understand – but like all of us, they have their preferences.

And when they’re positioned just so, and are connected via Bluetooth to a Samsung Galaxy S23 smartphone using the aptX HD codec, and are playing a TIDAL-derived file of Grace Jones’ Pull Up to the Bumper, they’re an uncomplicatedly enjoyable listen. There are plenty of specific areas of music-making that are deserving of mention, but what’s most immediately evident is how engaging and upfront a listen the M40 HD is. This system sounds very much like it enjoys your favourite music almost as much as you do.

At every point in the frequency range, detail levels are impressively high and integration is smooth. The low frequencies are deep, nicely textured and enjoy proper control at the attack of notes or hits – and this straight-edged lead-in means the rhythm of the Grace Jones tunes is expressed confidently and positively. All the momentum the recording needs is available. And at the opposite end of the frequency range, there’s an enjoyable amount of bite and attack – but although treble sounds have plenty of shine, they’re also substantial. Which means the top end never gets out of hand, even if you decide to deploy every one of those 200 watts of Class D power that are available.

In between, there’s a stack of space in which La Jones can operate, a pocket in which the vocal is delivered with all of its attitude and character intact. Despite the spacious nature of the M40 HD presentation, though, each element of the recording is tightly integrated - so there’s never a suggestion of remoteness or isolation. The Q Acoustics system gives a good impression of ‘performance’, providing a great sensation of commonality and unity even if it’s playing very complex, element-heavy recordings.

Switching to a 24bit/192kHz Qobuz file of Curtis Mayfield’s (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go served to the M40 HD via its USB-B socket allows the system to demonstrate its prowess where soundstaging and dynamics are concerned. The presentation is wide and deep, with more than enough room for each strand of the recording to do its thing without being impacted on from elsewhere - and when Curtis and his band turn the wick up, the Q Acoustics tracks changes in intensity (as well as simple volume) faithfully. It’s an expressive, open listen overall, with a stack of pertinent observations to make - but most of all, it’s an energetic and entertaining listen.

In ultimate terms its tonality is on the warm-ish side of neutral, but that’s a trait rather than an outright flaw. And it’s safe to say the system doesn’t need all that much encouragement to overstate the lowest frequencies a little - so not only should you be reasonably careful about positioning, you might want to think about deploying the port bungs that are supplied. Other than this, though, it’s hard to find fault with the M40 HD’s presentation.   

Sound quality score: 5/5

Q Acoustics' M40 HD remote control on top of the unit

The remote certainly adds value – although volume adjustment is a slightly blunt affair  (Image credit: Future)

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Design

  • 710 x 250 x 296mm (HxWxD)
  • Point-to-point cabinet bracing
  • Choice of three finishes

It may not be immediately apparent from the pictures, but each M40 HD speaker is 710 x 250 x 296mm (HxWxD) including the little stabilisers at the back of the cabinet – and, as such, is to my knowledge unique in the current marketplace. Floorstanding speakers, whether passive or powered, are without exception quite a bit taller than this and so Q Acoustics has a unique offering here. Whether that’s ‘unique in a good way’ or not entirely depends on you – personally, I can easily imagine that a speaker of these dimensions will find favour with any number of customers who fancy some full-on audio performance without full-on speakers delivering it.  

Other than the rather startling dimensions, it’s Q Acoustics design business as usual here – which is, broadly speaking, a good thing. The cabinet is vinyl-wrapped MDF (available in white or black in addition to the walnut of my review sample), and features the established and extremely successful point-to-point bracing technology that Q Acoustics has been perfecting for a while now. Each cabinet also has a Helmholtz Pressure Equaliser to reduce internal pressure and further reduce unwanted internal vibrations. 

As with the M20 HD, each grille is fixed and cannot be removed. That’s a bit of a pity in aesthetic terms, if for no other reason that the C³ driver is quite a good-looking piece of technology (as long as you bear in mind that everything’s relative). Q Acoustics, though, makes a strong argument that fixing the grille in place allows its structure, particularly around the drivers, to be minimised – which reduces sonic reflections. And given that I can’t take the grilles off and find out for myself, I’m not really in any position to argue.  

Design score: 5/5

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Usability and setup

  • Remote control handset
  • A few simple controls
  • Simple and quick to set up

On the top of the ‘primary’ speaker there are three little buttons. There’s a ‘volume up’ and a ‘volume down’ button, and the third takes care of ‘power on/off’, input selection and Bluetooth pairing. 

These functions are duplicated on the remote control handset that’s supplied with the M40 HD. In addition, you get a ‘mute’ button and the ability to skip forwards or backwards through your streamed content. Apart from the fact that the volume adjustment is a slightly blunt instrument, it’s a perfectly serviceable little device.

Setting up the M40 HD couldn’t really be much simpler. There are stabilisers and spikes to be attached to the bottom of each speaker, and they must be connected using the supplied length of speaker cable. After that, plug the ‘primary’ speaker into the mains, and once you’ve told it what’s what as regards its position in your room, you’re good to go. 

Usability and setup score: 5/5 

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Value

Whether or not these speakers are the right sort of size for your environment, there’s no denying the quality of their construction and finish. Add in specification that’s well up to snuff and sound quality that justifies the outlay every time, and the Q Acoustics M40 HD represents unarguable value for money.

Value score: 5/5 

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Should you buy it?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: Also consider

Where their configuration is concerned, the Q Acoustics M40 HD are currently number one in a field of one – almost every price- and function-comparable alternative is a pair of standmounting speakers. So while the more expensive KEF LSX II LT is better-specified in some ways, it doesn’t have a hope of delivering the sheer scale of sound the M40 HD can muster – and neither can the similarly talented (but similarly bijou) KEF LS50 Wireless II. But if everything except the price is appealing about the M40 HD, then check out their smaller, more affordable but similarly high-achieving Q Acoustics M20 HD siblings. 

Q Acoustics M40 HD review: How I tested

  • Standing in free(ish) space
  • Using every available input
  • Lots of music over a fair amount of time

The only connection I didn’t use was the subwoofer pre-out – because, quite frankly, the M40 HD sounds hefty enough by itself (especially if you position it too close to a rear surface, where the reflex ports can get a bit pushy). But the analogue inputs accommodate a pre-amplified turntable, the digital optical was used for a CD player, the USB-B connected the system to a laptop… and, of course, Bluetooth was handy for use with a smartphone. And then it was really just a case of listening to lots of familiar music, at a variety of volume levels, for as long as I thought I could get away with it… 

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: an iconic DJ deck design and sound for audiophiles
6:00 pm | February 11, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Turntables | Tags: | Comments: Off

Technics SL-1200GR2: Two-minute review

The Technics SL-100GR2 is the latest version of a design that the brand has been refining and finessing for over five decades now. The SL-1200 is an unarguable design classic – and while this SL-100GR2 version nods more than somewhat towards its lineage, it features one or two enhancements that are intended to keep it at the forefront of consumer’s minds – or, at least, those consumers with a couple of grand to drop on a new turntable.

So as well as the features familiar to anyone who’s ever hung around the DJ booth on a night out, the SL-100GR2 has a reworked direct drive motor arrangement and a new power supply. Unlike some of the best turntables, what it doesn’t have, though, is a cartridge – so be sure to factor that in when you’re working out your budget…

Once you’ve selected, purchased and fitted your cartridge, you’ll be treated to a sound of rare positivity and composure. The SL-1200GR2 is a direct, solid and properly organised listen, with proper talent for integrating the frequency range, establishing a persuasive soundstage and generally making your records sound clean and composed. It’s not the last word in dynamic potency, it’s true – but that trait needs to be balanced against all the things the Technics does beautifully. 

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Price and release date

The Technics SL-1200GR2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Priced at $2190 / £1799 / AU$2999
  • Released in December 2023

The Technics SL-1200GR2 is on sale now. In the US, you’ll need to part with around $2199. For those in the UK, it sells for a maximum of £1799, while in Australia you’re looking at AU$2999 or something quite like it. That’s not the end of your spending, either – at the very least you’re going to need a cartridge…

And it’s not as if you’re short of choice if you’re fortunate enough to have this sort of money to spend on a record player. Two favourites immediately spring to mind: the aptX Bluetooth-equipped Cambridge Audio Alva TT v2 and the exquisite Clearaudio Concept. They sit either side of the Technics in terms of price – but each comes with a very acceptable cartridge attached. 

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Features

The Technics SL-1200GR2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Hi-fi deck, DJ features
  • 230mm S-shaped tonearm 
  • Coreless motor 

Technics is adamant that the SL-1200GR2 is a hi-fi deck, rather than a piece of DJ equipment – users who need to be able to scratch, for instance, are directed towards the SL-1200mk7 instead. But get a look at the GR2 from above – it certainly seems to have one or two DJ credentials to me…

Just to the right of the 230mm S-shaped tonearm, for example, is a defeatable pitch control giving up to +/- 8 percent variation. At the front edge of the surface there’s a blue LED-lit stroboscope to indicate rotational accuracy, and a white LED target light for accurate cueing in the dark. 

And, of course, the big ‘stop/start’ button produces nigh-on immediate results – the SL-1200GR2 comes up to speed in an instant, which is the sort of feature a DJ relies on. Admittedly, the ability to play at 78rpm – by pressing the ‘33.3’ and ‘45’ rpm button simultaneously, isn’t all that DJ-centric, but you nevertheless take my point…

As with some previous versions, the SL-1200GR2 uses a coreless direct drive motor in an effort to eliminate the dreaded ‘cogging’ – the less-than-perfectly-consistent rotation that can be evident in some direct drive designs. For this model, though, Technics has augmented this with something it calls ‘delta sigma drive’ - this software package delivers a cleaner signal to the motor to help it turn more consistently, eliminating those minute variations that can cause cogging. 

There’s also a new multi-stage switching power supply, supposedly much quieter and less prone to electrical noise than a bog-standard analogue alternative. It works in conjunction with noise-cancellation circuitry first seen in the (horrifically expensive) SL-1000R turntable, and a low-voltage power supply, to keep the noise floor as low as is realistically possible. 

Features score: 5 / 5 

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Sound quality

The Technics SL-1200GR2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Positive, direct presentation 
  • Cleanly informative and full-bodied sound
  • Not the most dynamic listen around

The headline – and this will come as no kind of spoiler to anyone who’s heard a Technics turntable over the past few decades – is that the SL-1200GR2 is a direct and unequivocal listen. When it comes to giving a complete, unambiguous and easy-to-understand account of recording, it’s money very well spent indeed.

A listen to a heavyweight reissue of Trans Fatty Acid (K&D Session) by Lamb illustrates the fact in some style. From the top of the frequency range to the bottom, the Technics presents a unified, coherent sound – each area of the frequency range gets precisely the correct amount of weighting, and despite the nature of the recording there’s no overstating or underplaying of any area. Low frequencies are deep and punchy, naturally – but they’re also rigorously controlled, straight-edged at the leading edges of sounds, and carry plenty of information regarding tone and texture along with out-and-out muscularity. Momentum is good, and rhythmic expression is natural and convincing.

It’s a similar story at the top of the frequency range, where substance is just as well-represented as speed, and there’s plenty of tonal variation to give proper colour and balance to the sound. Treble sounds attack with crisp determination, but any latent edginess or hardness remains just that: latent. Even if you like to listen at nightclub volumes, the SL-1200GR2 stays composed and unabrasive.

In between, smoothly integrated into the information above and below it, the midrange communicates easily. There’s more than enough detail available to give the vocal - somewhat buried in the mix and electronically treated around its edges - the chance to express itself, and the SL-1200GR2’s soundstaging abilities mean there’s plenty of space in what is quite a busy mix for the midrange to shine. The stage is wide and deep, and organised to the point that there’s no blurring of boundaries between one element of the recording and the next. Without sounding remote or estranged, each individual strand is secure in its own pocket of space.

Where the Technics is found slightly wanting against the best of its nominal rivals is with dynamic expression. The small dynamic variations of tone and timbre that are apparent in instruments or voices are identified and contextualised, most certainly – but when it comes to the big dynamic shifts that come in a switch from ‘quiet contemplation’ to ‘big charge into the final chorus’  (such as in Pixies’ Tame, for example) the SL-1200GR2 doesn’t quite breathe deeply enough. It doesn’t track changes in intensity as rigorously as it might, and the changes it does identify it struggles to express quite as fully as other turntables can manage. Which means you won’t be in for any sudden surprises, but also that you might not get quite as visceral an account of a recording as you might be after.   

Sound quality: 4.5 / 5

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Design

Technics SL-1200GR2

(Image credit: Future)
  • All-silver (or all-black)
  • Built to last
  • 11.5kg

You know what you’re getting here, don’t you? After all, this is a) a record player and b) a Technics SL-1200 record player – and while the original SL-1200 from 1972 looked a little different to this, by the launch of the SL-1200 mkII in 1979 the design was basically set in stone. Technics has tinkered around the edges of the design ever since, but fundamentally this looks like a turntable from over 40 years ago. I’m all for it.

So what you get is a 173 x 453 x 372mm (HxWxD) rectangle with a circle on it. The top of the chassis is made from cast aluminium, the bottom from a bulk moulding compound material - this combination is designed to minimise vibration and offer optimum damping, and it goes a long way to explaining the Technics’ 11.5kg weight. On top of this is a rubber-damped aluminium platter, and the whole thing is topped off by a hinged clear Perpsex dust-cover. Support comes in the shape of four adjustable silicone rubber feet that assist both with levelling the deck and rejection of external vibrations.

A small but effective design flourish for the GR2 is that the SL-1200 is now an all-silver design, while the corresponding SL-1210 is all-black. Previous models have been ‘mostly silver’ or ‘mostly black’, but this new, more rigorous approach to colour-coding the turntable’s accessories and peripherals makes for a cleaner, even more upmarket look.     

Design score: 5 / 5 

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Usability and setup

The Technics SL-1200GR2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Iffy tonearm lift
  • Not as tricky to set up as the manual might suggest
  • Choose a cartridge 

Not every instruction manual advises you to be ‘tentative’ when setting up your new piece of equipment – but Technics has seemingly decided that putting the frighteners on new SL-1200GR2 owners when they first unbox their turntable is the best way to ensure accidents don’t happen.

In truth, the SL-1200GR2 is no more difficult to set up than any other high-end record player and actually a sight easier than some. Once you’ve adjusted its feet to make sure it’s sitting perfectly level, it’s really only a question of adjusting tracking and anti-skate controls and you’re basically in business.

Or, at least, you are once you’ve selected a cartridge. Technics supplies a simple-to-fit bayonet headshell with the GR2, but not a cartridge – so you’ll have to decide on what will suit you best and what you can realistically afford. I’d suggest budgeting around $500 / £500 / AU$650 in order to do some justice to the Technics’ abilities – for the majority of this test, I use an Ortofon Quintet Bronze moving-coil cartridge that sells for anywhere between $450—600 / £450—600 / AU$600—850.

Once that’s done, the SL-1200GR2 is simplicity itself to use. With the exception of the rather vague and relatively flimsy-feeling tonearm lift mechanism, all the control function with the sort of chunky precision this range of turntables has become famous for.

 Usability and setup score: 4 / 5

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Value

Technics SL-1200GR2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Not competitively priced
  • Plenty of competition 

Yes, it’s a design classic. Yes, it’s built to withstand even medium-sized detonations. Yes, it has plenty to recommend it where the sound it makes is concerned. But it’s not without competition at this price point. Also the fact that you’re looking at another $500 / £500 / AU$650 or so for a cartridge to do its engineering some justice, means the Technics SL-1200GR2 isn’t exactly nailed-on value for money.

Should you buy the Technics SL-1200GR2?

Buy it if... 

Don't buy it if...

Technics SL-1200GR2 review: Also consider

How I tested the Technics SL-1200GR2

Technics SL-1200GR2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested with a Chord phonostage and a Naim amplifier
  • Hooked up to Bowers & Wilkins speakers
  • Fitted an Ortofon Quintet Bronze MC cartridge 
  • Using a lot of records for quite a long time 

Set up isn’t tricky – or, at least, no trickier than it ever is when a cartridge needs to be fitted. After that, the SL-1200GR2 played into a Chord Huei phonostage, which was attached to a Naim Uniti Star amplifier, which in turn was attached to a pair of 705 S3 loudspeakers by Bowers & Wilkins. 

After that, I must admit I found it no hardship whatsoever to dig out dozens of my favourite records and listen to them under the guise of ‘work’. After having done this for well over a week, I had to admit to myself that I had probably finished testing…  

  • First reviewed February 2024
Tribit StormBox Flow review: simple and effective with an incredible battery life
1:00 pm | February 3, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Hi-Fi Wireless & Bluetooth Speakers | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Tribit StormBox Flow: Two-minute review

The Tribit StormBox Flow is a neat portable Bluetooth speaker that packs more of a punch than you’d expect. It’s certainly not stylish but if you look past that and appreciate how simple it is to use, it’s pretty good value for money.

The Tribit StormBox Flow sounds far better than you’d expect. At high volumes it struggles for clarity, but at more comfortable levels for your ears, it sounds crisp with some strong bass booming through. 

That’s further helped by the companion app where you can adjust the EQ to your desired needs or you can just pick out a preset option with some reasonable choices available. It’s all simply laid out even if the app also lacks the wow factor. 

Other useful features include being able to charge your phone via the Tribit StormBox Flow if you’re stuck for power. Also, you can pair it with another Tribit StormBox Flow for stereo sound which works well. 

Priced at $79.99 in the US and £79.99 in the UK, it’s a little cheaper than other rivals among the best Bluetooth speakers in this price range, but there are some design differences in comparison to these.

There’s IP67 waterproofing to help it rival the best waterproof speakers and a robust build with tactile buttons for easy tapping. A strap on one end means you can grab it easily too, although it is a little weightier than some of the competition.

That’s the thing about the Tribit StormBox Flow. It ticks all the right boxes but it won’t stir up excitement. Not everything needs to be exciting and the Tribit StormBox Flow is certainly dependable. If that’s what you need, you won’t be disappointed.

Tribit StormBox Flow review: Price and release date

The Tribit StormBox Flow on a bench

There are plenty of physical controls on the speaker itself for power, volume and more.   (Image credit: Future)
  • Released in August 2023
  • Costs $79.99 / £79.99
  • Available in the US and UK

The Tribit StormBox Flow was launched in August 2023 and is available to buy across the US and the UK. It's priced at $79.99 and £79.99 respectively, but the speaker is already discounted at third-party retailers like Amazon. 

Like much of Tribit’s range, the Tribit StormBox Flow is well-priced, costing a little more than budget offerings such as the Tribit Stormbox Micro 2, while being cheaper than mid-range options from JBL like the JBL Flip 6

It’s heftier than some of the most portable Bluetooth speakers like the Stormbox Micro 2, but it’s still fairly easy to grab and take places with you.  

Tribit StormBox Flow review: Specs

Tribit StormBox Flow review: Features

Tribit StormBox Flow control app

The Tribit control app lets you switch sound modes and customize EQ settings.  (Image credit: Future)
  • IP67 waterproofing
  • Companion app and EQ button
  • Can pair with other Tribit Stormbox Flow speakers

The Tribit StormBox Flow is designed to be taken around with you easily. It has a loose handle on one side so you can easily grab it. It could also be hooked on certain things including a tree. Because yes, the Tribit StormBox Flow is designed for the outdoors. While it doesn’t look massively robust, it offers IP67 waterproofing. 

It’s reasonably lightweight too although not quite ‘I didn’t realise it was in this bag’ level of light, such as the Nokia Portable Wireless Speaker 2. Battery life wise, it’s incredible. It has a massive 30 hours of playtime, which probably makes up for a tiny bit of extra bulk.

Bluetooth 5.3 helps here and also means drop-outs simply don’t happen. The speaker supports the AAC and SBC codes, although not AptX, but this isn’t really the kind of speaker you’re buying for exceptionally crisp sound (although, as we’ll see shortly, it’s still pretty good).

The Tribit StormBox Flow also pairs up with another speaker so you can enjoy stereo sound. It’s simple to set up via a couple of buttons. There’s an EQ button so you can rotate through an XBass and audiobook mode. More functionality comes from the Tribit app which allows you to create your own EQ settings as well as use one of six presets. It’s also possible to check battery life via the app with the time dipping a little if you enable XBass. It only drops to around 20-24 hours though, which is still more than good enough for most situations.

Finally, you can use the USB-C port to charge up your phone which is useful when you’re in a jam.

Features score: 4 / 5

Tribit StormBox Flow review: Sound quality

Tribit StormBox Flow on a bench

The Stormbox Flow is built to withstand being dunked under water for a small amount of time and is completely dust tight. (Image credit: Future)
  • 25W drivers
  • Volumes goes high
  • Muddy audio after a certain point

The Tribit StormBox Flow manages to go surprisingly high when you crank up the volume. For a little speaker, it’s going to boom out amongst the pool party you’re having or if you’re simply relaxing at home. The bass is the most impressive part although it does turn into a bit of a mess if you crank things up too high.

Still, the Tribit StormBox Flow is packing a punch here. Pair up two speakers like I did and it’s surprisingly compelling with a wide soundstage. I enjoyed hearing Queen’s Under Pressure all around me. Listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album was also suitably vibrant, offering some smooth mids. 

It’s an enjoyable listen all around. Just don’t be surprised if you lower the volume a little more than usual. Also, stick with the XBass sound mode where possible for the punchiest sound. 

Sound quality score: 4 / 5 

Tribit StormBox Flow review: Design

Tribit StormBox Flow on a bench

It's simple design, means the Stormbox Flow isn't the most of exciting of speakers.  (Image credit: Future)
  • Tactile buttons
  • EQ buttons
  • Simple design

I’m not a huge fan of how the Tribit StormBox Flow looks because it’s so simple and straightforward – it somehow manages to look less exciting than even the Bose SoundLink Flex, which costs $70 / £70 more than the Stormbox Flow. However, while far from a designing dream, it does all work suitably well.

On the top are all the buttons – power, Bluetooth, volume, EQ and a button for pairing up with another speaker. Each is raised ever so slightly so you can identify which is which without looking. Having a way to adjust the EQ without the app is useful even if it’s restricted to only a couple of predefined options. 

The power button is a little finicky about how long you need (or don’t need) to hold it down but I have a sneaky feeling that’s more my fault than anything. On the side is the USB-C port, which isn’t obscured by a flap or similar to ensure waterproofing. It’s still fine though and doesn’t cause any issues.

Design score: 3 / 5 

Tribit StormBox Flow review: Value

Tribit StormBox Flow on a bench

It's reasonable price tag means you can quite easily consider buying two to unlock the multipoint pairing feature.  (Image credit: Future)
  • A little cheaper than some of the competition 
  • Robust design
  • Unassuming 

The Tribit StormBox Flow is that device that will surprise you. It looks very unassuming and not exactly as stylish as something like the JBL Flip or Bose SoundLink Flex range but it works well. 

Also cheaper than the JBL Flip 6, the Tribit StormBox Flow makes up for its lack of looks by making it more affordable for you to buy two, while also still being pretty loud. You just might not be showing it off to all and sundry.

Should you buy the Tribit StormBox Flow?

Buy it if...

Don’t buy it if...

Tribit StormBox Flow review: Also consider

How I tested the Tribit StormBox Flow

Tribit StormBox Flow on a desk

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested over 10 days 
  • Used the speaker individually and paired with another 
  • 10 years of audio equipment reviewing experience

The Tribit StormBox Flow was my trusty companion throughout the last 10 days. It was by my side while I worked in my home office and thanks to its portable nature, I took it with me when I headed to the living room and kitchen for extended periods of time. 

Different locations meant I could compare the Tribit StormBox Flow against the noise of my dehumidifier, the neighbours’ never-ending construction work, and more regular noises like the air fryer ticking away in the kitchen. 

The Tribit StormBox Flow’s music choice was powered by my iPhone 14 Pro. I used a mixture of Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube to listen to. Mostly, I listened to various genres of music including pop, rock, jazz, classical, and a few other random choices. 

I also checked out how well the Tribit StormBox Flow sounded when listening to podcasts and other more talk-focused content like Twitch and YouTube videos on my phone. 

  • First reviewed January 2024
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