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