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All In One

bang on target! - oppo sonica

  • Written by Denom
  • Category: All In One
  • Hits: 839

 

Remember the days when enjoying the music was simple, 2 button affair? It used to be our cassette player or 2 in one – what Americans call a boombox. We had to just give electric supply, pop in a tape, press play and music started flowing. Life was sorted! Come 21st century and things changed. Listeners became audiophiles and crave for better quality music, with multi box systems. Then came digital hi res music and things are becoming complex. Now theoretically you can play higher resolution music stored on your pc or USB hard drive and control it on wifi, but it requires knowledge of music, computers, networking and above all a lot of patience. Here comes a device like Oppo Sonica which works on an app based interface in first go and your faith in KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid is restored. Just download the app, it finds your network, asks your network password and it’s good to go. We have tried it with not one or two but more than 10 smartphones and it works – flawlessly. So what is this little baby sonica? It is a new WiFi speaker introduced by oppo. In crude market terms, it is a premium blue tooth speaker with WiFi connectivity, but just calling it a blue tooth speaker will be gross injustice. The beauty of this little baby is WiFi play ability, USB music decoding and App Control, whilst DOING IT ON THE FLY. Any audio enthusiast will ask about sound especially a brand like oppo the expectations are high. For most of the world oppo is a smartphone manufacturer and this smartphone brand is known from last 2-3 years but AV connoisseurs know this brand for almost 10 years. When oppo introduced a DVD player, people discovered not only fantastic video performance but great audio performance as an audiophile grade CD player as well. Build quality was phenomenal and some patrons are still using this DVD player in their audio rig. Come Blu-Ray and the legacy continued, as oppo continued to build on the reputation of their erstwhile DVD players. Currently oppo Blu-Ray player is considered as one of the best Audio-Video transport, DAC, USB Music player and Network AV Player. Oppo introduced premium headphones with planer magnetic technology, which are also well received by the market. As had been promised to us during the launch event of the oppo sonica, the distributors of oppo digital india, M/s. Jay Multimedia duly sent us a pair of oppo sonica’s to play with and subsequently we are able to write the review on the same.

Out of the box: The sonica’s that we received were part of the demonstration set and hence they came with only their power cords and protective felt covers. We received 2 units of the oppo sonica as we were told to review them as a single entity and also as a pair. Good for us as we were able to not do as per the brief but also let our friends play with them so that we could hear more about the sonica from an end user’s perspective as well as let them play, feel, hear with what the latest entrant in oppo’s portfolio is all about.

Design: The oppo sonica is rather attractively designed with a very smooth exterior surface. There are 2 colour options on offer, black and silver. The top has a small LED light with a pair of buttons, one that increases/decrease the volume and the other which mutes the volume. When pressed together one is able to clear the preset pairing and enables one to pair the unit with your hand held device for either Bluetooth or wifi options. The front area is completely covered by the grey speaker grill cloth that is quite firm and appears to be firm to withstand attacks from the curious kids as well as keep dust/dirt out of the speaker surface. The oppo name is nicely incorporated, centred at the bottom end the speaker grill. There is also a LED light underneath the oppo name that lights up and can be changed to various colour options and can be adjusted for pulse or steady mode all via the sonica app. The back side of the sonica is all curve with a small recessed section towards the bottom that has access to a USB port, AUX port, network connection port & the power cord socket. The base is a rectangular piece that has an option to be connected to a bracket, which is an optional extra. For a relatively small foot print, the sonica sure feels well put together and is quite heavy as well.

SPECIFICATIONS: (Designs and specifications are subject to change without notice)

Power Supply: 100 V - 240 V ~ 50/60 Hz

Power Consumption: 35 W / 6 W (Standby)

Size: (mm) 301 (L) x 147 (W) x 135 (H) Weight 2.4 kg (5.3 lb)

Wi-Fi Protocol: 802.11.a/b/g/n/ac

Bluetooth: Standard Bluetooth 4.1

AUX Max Input: 2 Vrms

Audio Formats: AAC, AIF, AIFC, AIFF, APE, FLAC, M4A, M4A (Apple Lossless) ALAC, MP2, OGG, WAV, WMA

Drivers: 1 x 3.5” long displacement bass driver 2 x 3” balanced bass radiators 2 x 2.5” wideband drivers with Neodymium magnets

Operating Conditions Temperature: 5°C - 35°C Humidity 15% - 75% (No Condensation)

Wall Mount: Optional 

For more details, kindly visit Oppo Digital Web Page

Performance: Sound of sonica is clean, with clear mids and tight punchy bass. We feel that it is more towards crowd pleasing than audiophile sound. Bass is evident as in order to deliver maximum performance from a compact enclosure, sonica has four separate amplifiers that are set up in a 2.1 stereo configuration. Two 15-watt amplifiers are connected in a bridged mode to drive the 3.5" bass woofer and two 3” bass radiators with a combined power output of 30-watts. Two additional amplifiers, 10-watts each, power a stereo pair of 2.5" wideband drivers. Utilizing a 2.1 stereo configuration is a time-tested approach that allows for the best possible performance. The two complementary bass radiators are located on each side of the enclosure opposite each other. Not only do they enhance the bass response, they also cancel unwanted vibrations in the speaker enclosure. This ensures that Sonica remains stationary without rattling and shaking when music is played at very high volumes. Having gotten a little taste of what the sonica is capable of during the launch event, we were pretty confident that we would be enjoying ourselves with the sonica in preparation of writing a review on it. The very fact that we gave it no mercy was when we plugged in a 2 TB Hard Disk brimmed to the max with hi res music files in flac/wav formats, straight into it to see what happens! It was a real eye opener for us, as it read the 2TB hard disk in a flash and also showed us the files in the respective formats with cover arts of the albums to boot, which was fan bloody tastic and brought a huge smile on our faces. The sonica app itself is a master stroke and we heartily applaud the team for making it so simple and intuitive that it truly is a pleasure to use. Once the pairing of the sonica speaker is completed via the app, one can then command the sonica to do your bidding, that of playing your choice of music via the options available. With minimal time application to doing so you are then able to listen to your music which the sonica does appreciably well keeping its relatively small size and foot print in mind. We initially started with a single sonica to understand what 1 sonica does as that is usually how it will be used by the end user, though 1 sonica can be paired with another 7 sonica’s, but that is when one needs to have multi-room options available to cover the entire home front. What came to mind instantly was how well the sonica handles the frequency spectrum keeping its size in mind. The advantage of having 4 presets with a super bass which boosts the bass feature was another aspect that was appreciated by us. There also is a guide me feature which lets you configure it as per your requirements. Continuing with the no mercy attitude, we placed the sonica directly in a 450 square feet room to see whether it sinks or swims. It swam alright as we and our friends were taken aback by how it performed in such a large room with open spaces around it. We played a variety of music genres to see where the weak links are, but try as me may the sonica kept punching way over its weight. The sonica is aptly aided by its app which sends our commands to it instantly, without any lag or connectivity issues, which obviously will depend on how good your wifi or wired network is. A couple of tracks which stood out were the following:

Glimmer – Tin Spirits

Hella Good – No Doubt

The Hunter – Jennifer Warnes

Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen

Chal chameli baag mein – Krodhi

Aaina wohi hota hai – Shalimar

Chana chor garam – Kranti

Subsequently we did the stereo sonica listening which we found to be even better and an option that the end user would like as many do not like a clutter of boxes attached with numerous cables which invariably are dangling some where or the other. Here with the sonica, one gets the freedom from the above and also having the option of just connecting the home network to them and being done with the hassles to devote the rest of the time listening to his/her favourite music.

Verdict: A late entrant to a cut throat market of portable speakers, the oppo sonica is extremely capable and is able to hold its ground comfortably aided by sound quality, ease of use and armed with a terrific app that works seamlessly once you’ve done the initial installation. We rarely expect a product to be this good right off the blocks but the boffins at oppo have worked very hard to get the sonica right from the get go and that shows clearly in the end result. Kudos to oppo for listening to their customers and giving them something to be happy with for a long while. We look forward to what oppo does next. The retail price of the oppo sonica is Rs.29999/-

Review Material Courtesy Mr. Yash Parwani, CEO – Oppo Digital India

Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 – Awaken a Beast!

  • Written by Denom
  • Category: All In One
  • Hits: 581

 

 

Unboxing: The Air 200 came well packed (double box packing), with all the accessories neatly ensconced in nicely cut out thermocol that holds the Air 200 firmly in place within the box as well as neatly tucking in the accessories in it. The accessories include: 1) Quick start owner’s manual in various languages (separate booklets having info related to hooking up the Air 200 via Wi-Fi networks 2) Three types of power cords (CU, EU & UK Plug Terminated) 3) One Card type remote with its battery cell 4) Ethernet Cable. Packing Quality: 5 Stars

Appearance: The Air 200 is a very well put together piece of equipment, nicely finished in glossy piano white casing with a matt silver band around the speaker grill. The unit is slightly bigger than tha Air 100, pretty heavy & feels solid when held by ones hand, with a conveniently placed slot for ones hand to secure holding it. The speaker grill is a fixed type & is slightly shiny grey in colour which neither looks bland nor flashy, pretty understated & functional. The top side of the curved unit has 5 rubberised buttons on the left side numbered 1-5 to store the preset internet radio channels. The top right side has another 5 rubberised buttons which operate the following: Bluetooth, Analog Input, Volume - /+ & Power. The buttons are nicely textured to touch & a breeze to operate. The card remote is a little compact piece with all the features of the buttons on the main unit with the addition of being able to switch between 10 preset channels & an addition of a mute button. Adjusting the bass level is also possible with the presence of -/+ buttons. All the buttons are not back lit like the ones on the main unit. I doubt that the remote would see much use as most end users would use their mobile devices to control the Air 100 or end up using the buttons on the unit itself. The remote build quality though sticks out as a sore thumb in comparison to the main units high build quality. But then the remote wont be used as much as one would be using ones mobile device to do the needful, hence its going to be pretty much unused. The back panel of the Air 200 houses the following in a little recessed area of the back: Power Cord Port Ethernet Cable Slot LED which flashes orange/green when in use Bass Level Knob A micro USB port for servicing the unit 3.5 mm auxiliary pin slot Stereo RCA Input The Air 200 is essentially a ported cab design with the port being cleverly integrated into the hand grab recess. Overall the look of the Air 200 is simple & understated.

Build Quality: 5 Stars

Bluetooth/Air Play Pairing: Bluetooth pairing was effortless & quick. One can start playing music pretty much instantly from ones mobile devices, which is always good for one who is wanting a fuss free operation. When you power on the Minx Air, an LED on the back flashes orange and green. To set up AirPlay, you have to connect to the Minx Air's temporary Wi-Fi hotspot. Once you do, you type 192.168.1.1 into your browser, select your Wi-Fi network's SSID from the list, and type in your password and click Apply. The Minx Air will save the configuration, and your own PC will see the Minx Air hotspot disappear, meaning that it should automatically reconnect to your existing home network. If all is well, you'll be able to select the Minx Air from your iOS device. This setup is functional, Cambridge Audio makes available a free Minx Air iOS app, which I tested using an iPhone 5. The app lets you control the device as if the iPhone were a remote, as well as find and store Internet radio stations from a selection of over 20,000. It also includes something you can't get via the front panel or hardware remote: 10 DSP presets for modifying the speaker's frequency response curve. Connecting via the RCA inputs does take about 30 seconds for the music to play but that’s pretty much acceptable for one to sit back & enjoy the music. Listening Impressions: Straight out of the box, one is impressed with the big sound coming from its size. It goes pretty loud as well without distorting itself out of breath. Unlike the Air 100, it does not get uncomfortable to hear at high volumes but makes you pump the volume further up. A big sound is delivered pretty much effortlessly & you start enjoying the music at higher SPL’s like crazy. The addition of a 6.5” woofer does the trick here in giving the 2 X 4” BMR drivers breathing space & letting the bigger woofer do the muscle work in regard to reproducing the LF’s. It digs deeper with the bass but also gives the mids enough space to shine. The highs are decent but not fully extended. It aids in allowing one to hear music fatigue free, for longer duration of time. What surprises one is the bass from these speakers, especially when we heard ‘The Robots’ by Kraftwerk & ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk. One can further pump up the Bass with the help of the bass level knob at the back of the unit, but I found it to perform best with the level at 12 o'clock position. Bass freaks can pump it up further to their liking. The kick Drum in ‘Jump’ by Van Halen was well fleshed out & tight, giving a feel of good depth is always rewarding experience. The guitar tone of Stevie Ray Vaughn was captured rather well along with the tight bass line & SRV’s vocals came out rather nicely to boot. Devin Townsend’s ‘Daddy’ sounded layered with a perfect blend of the guitars & vocals with the background fader coming through clearly. The Air 200 clearly shines in revealing details in the recordings. The sound stage is wider than the Air100 & sense of space is better achieved over the Air 100, which sounds a little congested in comparison to the Air200. The Air 200 belts out music at high volumes rather well & keeps going at full tilt without breaking into a sweat. Like the Air 100, the Air 200 rewards when well recorded music is played, poor recordings get exposed but not as brutally as in the case of Air 100. Plug in an external source CD/DVD/BDP via the RCA Inputs, stream your music/internet radio via your mobile device wifi or wired through the ethernet port from a desk top & you are ready to rock! Playing at high volumes is the Air 200’s forte, as it just begs to be played LOUD!! I just love the Air200 for what it does, its a beast!

Sound Quality: 4.5 Stars

Verdict:  Having reviewed the Cambridge Audio Minx 100 already, I was thinking how much further can the Cambridge Audio Minx 200 improve upon it. To say quite a bit is shocking in the very least! While it does everything that the Cambridge Audio Minx 100 does, it just goes deeper performance wise. Given a choice, I’d go with the Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 over the 100 & am sure most would too if they don’t feel the pinch of coughing up the additional 10K difference between the two models. for the Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200. The only fly in the ointment being its price

Retail Price: Rs.39900/-

Minx Air200

ONKYO CRN-765 Network CD Receiver

  • Written by Denom
  • Category: All In One
  • Hits: 4774

 

Onkyo CRN 765 -Network CD Receiver

 

CRN765

A Small Wonder !

It’s been almost 6 months now that I’ve had the Onyko CRN-765 in my set-up & hence feel it’s time that I wrote a review on this little wonder.

Appearance: The first look says its part of a typical micro component system that was quite popular from the ‘80s onwards in most homes, especially to be used in small rooms, bedrooms, but one should not treat the CRN-765 with similar disdain or at least that’s what I did when it first came along for the review. The fact that it kept surprising me each time I tried pairing it with different speakers speaks volumes of what Onkyo has been able to achieve with this all in one. A true sleeper in every sense of the word! Like most micro components, the CRN-765 is highly compact in dimensions 215 (width) × 119 (height) × 331 (depth) mm, makes it fit in any environment very easily & without having special requirements. Like all Onkyo products available in India, this one is also available only in black. It comes with a rather sufficient display with a large volume knob to its right & the CD Tray below it. Underneath the CD tray is an array of small buttons including the power button, USB Slot & a 3.5mm head phones jack all on the left side. On the right side are Eject, Stop & Play/Pause buttons under the large Volume Knob. Below these buttons come the Input, Tone & Return buttons with the prev/next rotating knob labeled as Menu Enter. The backend of the CRN-765 has the following: A Pair of Speaker Terminals Vertically aligned on the extreme left followed by a vertical grid which has a remote control, aux-in ports with Ethernet jack & USB slot. Underneath these are a set of a pair of line-inn’s & a single line out RCA female jacks. Next to them are the AM & FM connector jacks. Below them are optical & co-axial input jacks. The upper right side of the back end has the power socket pins to plug the power cord & that’s the rear, done & dusted. The CRN-765 comes with a full function remote which is like a wand in shape but is extremely easy to use & has well spaced & laid out buttons to make ease of use of all the functions on the CRN-765.

 

Associated Gear: Since this is an all in one, did not use another amp or source with it, but kept changing speakers to see how it performs with various types.

Used the following speakers to pair: Amphion Helium 410 DIY 3 Way Monitors Nibbana Audio Dvee Firestarters Nibbana Audio Dvee Fostex FE166En Drivers based Horn Loaded Speakers Fostex Sigma FE208 EZ Sigma Drivers based Horn Loaded Speakers Klipsch RF62ii FS

Technical Specifications: (Onkyo Website)

■ corresponding to DSD5.6MHz native playback (via network / USB) ■ corresponding to the reproduction of 192 kHz/ 24bit files, etc. Hi-Res sound of WAV / FLAC (via network / USB) ※ 1 ■ gapless playback corresponding to achieve a more natural music reproduction (during USB playback) ■ DLNA1.5 compliance, Home Media featured ■ adopted the flagship series "VERITA" AK4490 of AKM Inc. in DAC ■ full discrete DIDRC headphone amplifier equipped ■ radiko.jp, can play Internet radio Tune In ※ 2 ■ favorite portal site that can be synchronized to register the Internet radio station ■ allows digital connection with iPod / iPhone and USB cable ※ 3 ■ Supports remote app Onkyo Remote that can be operated from the iPhone and Android terminal ※ 4 ■ Equipped with bass enhancement technology Phase Matching Bass Boost own development ■ Adopt aluminum material with excellent damping properties in knob front panel and volume ■ tone control function that can arrange the balance of the sound to your liking ■ Music Optimizer to play compressed music files such as MP3 with higher quality

Performance: The heart of the CRN-765 arguably is the very decent for its output Amplifier section which has a modest rating of 22wpc @ 4 ohms, but we never felt it gasp when paired with the variety of speakers we had at our disposal, especially when we had a couple of 85 & 86 db sensitivity speakers paired to it. It does not lose its composure even when the volume is pumped to its limit which is a very strong characteristic of the unit. The brain of the CRN-765 is the DAC section which uses the flagship series "VERITA" AK4490 DAC chip of AKM Inc. This chip is hardly found in most of the mainstream DAC’s & we were very surprised to experience the rather outstanding performance of this chip as implemented by the boffins at Onkyo. To describe the performance very briefly, it makes the music sound musical with very high levels of details, whilst not going overboard with the analytical aspect. Clearly it has a very well defined balance of what one appreciates in a good DAC section of any audio gear. We played a wide variety of musical genres with the CRN-765 & invariably it came out trumps with everything we gave it. Maybe, that’s one of the reasons why it appeals so much to us & made us buy it post end of the review process!

Verdict: The Onkyo CRN-765 is kind of a sleeper product that one rarely takes interest in or thinks it will perform way over its capabilities. We initially did so too but after getting play time with it realized that this is very much a jewel that needs to shine in the spotlight. Compared to the offerings of the competitors in the market, at Rs.36000/- this sure is a bargain for not only new bies wanting to get something that takes care of the amplification & source but also seasoned audio junkies who can pair it with a variety of speakers in their main set-up or as a 2nd set-up in their bedrooms or any place where they like. The Onkyo CRN-765 gets big thumbs up from the HifiHunt Team!  

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