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WELCOME
Music, the music industry and everything around it has
changed. There’s no reason to dismiss that as a bad
thing, because getting your fix of digital convenience
needn’t mean the end of proper sound quality. And
that’s what a lot of this issue is about.
Phones aren’t just smart these days, they’re powerful
multimedia players capable of playing high-res music
and high-def video. In our supertest we put eight of
the best newcomers through their paces (p26).
If you’re drowning in a sea of recently ripped digital music
files, or want to convert all your physical music from
vinyl or CD into megabytes, then we’ve got the perfect
feature; a brilliant guide to computer-based audio
to fully explore your digital music options (p43).
Are all your music files stored digitally? Then a decent
digital-to-analogue converter is a must. We tell you
what you need to know about this once humble,
now absolutely crucial, cog in your hi-fi system (p49).
Apple’s music streaming service is live and gunning
for the likes of Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz. Will
it redefine the market? Possibly. This month’s Insider
section brings you all the vital facts and figures behind
the new kid on the block. Enjoy!
Reviews you
can trust
Experience
& heritage
We’ve been hard at
work helping the
world discover the
best in hi-fi and
home cinema for
more than 37 years,
and have getting on
for 100 years of reviewing experience under our collective
belts – so you can count on our expert opinions.
Dedicated test
facilities
We test every
product in the
magazine or at
whathifi.com
against its peers
in our bespoke £1m
reviewing facilities.
And we test every product as a team, so our opinions
and conclusions are always the result of collaboration.
We spot big
trends first
MP3 player tests before the iPod even
existed? High-def video before it even
had a name? That was us. We keep you in
touch with big stories and future trends.
Wendy Madlener, editor
Worldwide
readership
With seven international editions in
Africa, Asia and Europe, we reach over
1.6 million readers every month.
Find us on...
facebook.com/whathifi.com
Tannoy Kensington GR
Temptation p52
They’re gentle giants, balancing
finesse with force in a very appealing way.
Consider us tempted.
@whathifi
youtube.com/WhathifiTV
whf.cm/playlist2014
whathifi.com
www.whathifi.com 1
>08>15
CONTENTS
Supertest Smartphones
“No matter which phone you go
for, one thing is for sure: sound
and vision on the go is about to
get a lot better”
What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision South Africa
is published by Multi Media Publications .
P.O. Box 52699 , Wierda Park, 0149
Tel: 012 653 4801
Fax: 086 600 0380
Email: info@whathifisa.co.za
Website: www.multimediapublications.co.za
EDITORIAL
Editor Wendy Madlener
ADVERTISING 012 653 4801
Advertising director Max Madlener
SUBSCRIPTIONS 012 653 4801
email: subscriptions@whathifisa.co.za
PRODUCTION
Publisher Max Madlener
Printed by ABC Press Cape Town
Distributed by
What Hi Fi? Sound and Vision magazine and the What Hi Fi?
Sound and Vision logo are trademarks of Haymarket Media Group
Limited, United Kingdom and used under licence by Multi Media
Publications. Content reproduced from What Hi Fi Magazine ©
Haymarket Media Group Limited 2011 all rights reserved. The
views and opinions expressed within What Hi Fi? Sound and Vision
magazine are not necessarily those of Haymarket Media Group
Limited or those of its contributors.
What Hi Fi? Sound and Vision magazine is published in France,
India, Indonesia, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain and UK.
Additional Information We take every care when compiling
the contents of this magazine, but can assume no responsibility
for any effects arising there from. Advertisements are accepted by
us in good faith as correct at the time of going to press.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without
the written permission of the publisher.
UK EDITORIAL
Editor-in-chief Andy Clough
Editor Simon Lucas
Managing editor Jonathan Evans
International technical editor Ketan Bharadia
Digital editor Joe Cox
Content editor Andy Madden
Multimedia editor Verity Burns
First tests editor Kashfia Kabir
Buyer’s Guide editor Kobina Monney
Art editor Simon Bowles
Designer Kayleigh Pavelin
Photographer Steve Waters
What’s in this issue…
06 First Tests Cambridge returns to the test rooms
with its exciting CXA60 stereo amplifier, Chord’s
2Qute is a chunky DAC wonder and we get our hands
on Sony’s first AV receiver of 2015, the STR-DN860.
OVERSEAS LICENSING
International Director Alastair Lewis
alastair.lewis@haymarket.com
Licensing Account Manager Isla Friend
Syndication sales manager: Paloma Gutierrez-Keever
Head of Partner Development Europe & ROW:
David Ryan - david.ryan@haymarket.com
Head of Partner Development, Asia Lisa Vernall
lisa.vernall@haymarket.com
Partner Account Manager Luc Higham
luc.higham@hotmail.com
Partner Account Manager Giuseppe Messina
giuseppe.messina@haymarket.com
UK MANAGEMENT
Group Publishing Director Ollie Stretton
Brand director Alastair Lewis
Group director Patrick Fuller
Editorial Director Mark Payton
Design Director Paul Harpin
Managing Director David Prasher
www.haymarket.com
2 www.whathifi.com
26 Supertest: smartphones Phones are better and
faster than ever with a wealth of multimedia features
at their disposal. The eight phones we’ve gathered
fulfil that remit, but to be the best smartphone on
the market we need one that’s a master of all trades.
First tests
“This is an amplifier
that puts musical
enjoyment high on
its list of priorities”
43 How to… tune your audio network system. We
take pride in our CD collection but hi-fi is on a steady
march towards digital. We guide you through the
what, why and how of creating a networked system.
Insider Apple Music p20
We assess Apple’s move into the
music streaming sector and how
it intends to shake the market up
Subscriptions p42
That Was Then p88
Save on the print cover price
Never miss an issue
Samsung has come along way since
the days of its SGH-i900 smartphone
Subscribe now and save
A glimpse into What Hi-Fi? past
RE
CONVERTERS FEATU
DIGITAL TO ANALOGUE
£130
Audioquest Dragonfly 1.2
The first Dragonfly pretty much
kickstarted the USB DAC market.
a
And v2 has upped its game:
.
perfect, portable companion
DAC
EASY AS
ABC
COMPUTER AUDIO HOW
know about DACs
Everything you need to
got your files stored
rter, no music – not if you’ve
No digital to analogue conve
to know about this
pages we tell what you need
system
digitally. In the next three
tely crucial, cog in your hi-fi
absolu
now
le,
humb
once
Arcam irDAC £400
the
A small black box of tricks,
irDAC delivers a punchy, rhythmic
sound that blows away the
competition at this price.
Y
it, but most of
ou may not have realised
least one digital to
us will make use of at
commonly
analogue converter, more
single day.
known as a DAC, every
rs, tablets and
Built into the likes of compute
is the fundamental key
smartphones, the DAC
nce of digital music,
to unlocking the convenie
an analogue signal to
transforming it back into
human ear.
make it audible to the
a source of digital
Any device that acts as
player, DAB radio,
sound – be it CD or Blu-ray
or portable music
set-top box, games console
to convert its audio
player – will need a DAC
before it is output.
back to an analogue signal
don’t amplify in
Traditional amplifiers
play in digital and our
digital, speakers don’t
in digital – they all
ears certainly don’t hear
BUILD YOUR AUDIO
NETWORK
H
ave you recently found
yourself becoming
the proud owner of a sprawling
, burgeoning
music collection that’s
all in digital files? Or
perhaps you want to convert
all your physical music
from vinyl or CD into megabyte
s and store them in
one place that’s quick
and easy to play from?
The way we listen to music
is evolving, and so it’s
essential that you evolve
with it too. But don’t be
afraid to take the plunge
– if you’ve been testing
the
digital music waters with
a handful of MP3s and
ripped CD albums on your
home computer, then
you’re already on your
way towards creating
a
harmonious, all-digital
source for your hi-fi system.
The next step is to get
yourself a Network Attached
Storage (NAS) device.
Here, we take you through
the
who, what, why, and how
of creating a vast, smart
and networked system
for your music collection
.
>
www.whathifi.com 67
Features
“The way we listen to
music is evolving, and
it’s about time you
evolved with it”
HUGO
Join us on
Spotify & Tidal
whf.cm/playlist15
Listen to our favourite tracks
For a full list of specificatio
ns and
other useful info visit whathifi.com
every month!
www.whathifi.com 43
New Buyer’s Guide…
two mags in one!
Temptation
“Something of a gentle giant,
balancing finesse with force in a
mighty appealing way”
Revamped hi-fi guide!
800 products rated p61
With new categories and key
tech specs, we’ve made it even
easier for you to pick the best kit
for your cash.
Subwoo
fers
Sealed
cabin
Reflex port et
Room equal
isation
Our ratings explained
We always test products as a
team, in dedicated facilities,
and always compare them
with their peers. That’s why
our ratings are the most
authoritative in the industry.
One of the best
A serious contender
Worth a look
Disappointing
Awful
★★★★★
★★★★
★★★
★★
★
If it’s one of our winners,
you know it’s top quality
t
Produc
Up to R3000
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58 Playlist The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending
spreads its wings on Blu-ray and Everything Everything want to Get To Heaven with their third album.
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65
.com
hathifi
84 www.w
Find out…
What is Dolby Atmos & DTS:X? p65
How to position your speakers p71
System killers p73
The best headphones to buy p79
System builder p84
For a full list of specifications and other
useful info, visit whathifi.com
www.whathifi.com 3
65
Subw
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Finishes
SSO
ACCE
Dimens
ions
(hwd, cm)
RIES
84
Length m)
tested(
49 DACs Everything you always wanted to know
about DACs but were afraid to ask. We cover the insand-outs of what’s become a crucial piece of hi-fi.
AWARDS 2012
SYSTEMS
BEST MULTIROOM STREAMING SYSTEM
SONOS
AWARDS 2013
SYSTEMS
BEST MULTIROOM STREAMING SYSTEM
SONOS
AWARDS 2014
SYSTEMS
BEST MULTIROOM SYSTEM UP TO £500
SONOS
2
4
3
1
SONOS Bridge
1
2
SONOS Connect
Connect to your router so all players can go Turn your stereo or home theater into a
anywhere and work wirelessly
music streaming system
3
SONOS Connect Amp
Turn your speakers into a music streaming
system with our high-powered amplifier
Imported and distributed by Audiotronic. For a dealer near to you phone 011 608 3236
Wireless Music Distribution systeM
“Reasonably priced, effortlessly stylish and with
a plethora of options to expand as you go - Sonos
is still one of multi-room’s leading lights.”
What Hi-Fi ? Sound and Vision – Awards 2014
7
5
4
5
SONOS Sub
Our new SUB will take your whole
Sonos System one seismic step
closer to the spine-curling,
jaw-dropping, full body experience
music was meant to be.
SONOS Play:1
Fits anywhere. Rocks any
world soloist size.
Symphony sound
6
6
SONOS Play:3
The smaller, sexier, tuck in the
corner and blow out the roof,
all-in-one player
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SONOS Play:5
The original, bigger room, bigger
sound, all-in-one wireless music
system.
Imported and distributed by Audiotronic. For a dealer near to you phone 011 608 3236
Exclusive reviews of the latest kit
FIRST TESTS
MORE
FIRST TESTS
Jamo C103
R26800 Page 11
Eye-catching design
and immaculate build
from these speakers
Chord 2Qute
R28500 Page 16
Another standalone
DAC from Chord –
another winner
Pro-ject
RPM1 Carbon
R8799 Page 15
The original has
developed into a
high-tech package
Want more?
Visit whathifi.com
for even more
product reviews!
6 www.whathifi.com
EXCLUSIVE
High-quality, low-price
AV amp is a sonic boon
Sony STR-DN860 | AV amplifier | £400 (R10900 online)
Sony’s UK AV amplifier offering has had a
more focused approach than many of its
competitors over the past few years.
Concentrating on two key price points –
£400 and £500 – it’s done away with big,
complicated line-ups to focus on the
mainstream, and what a triumph it’s been.
In a few short years, it has become the
king of affordable home cinema amps,
turning the tables on a rather hit-and-miss
few years before to pick up five-star reviews
and Product of the Year Awards with ease.
Can that momentum continue with the
STR-DN860? You bet.
Beneath the surface
While things may all look very familiar on
the outside, things on the inside have seen
some tweaks in an attempt to improve on
last year’s performance.
For a start there’s an upgraded power
supply to minimise noise, and a new
pre-amp chip that sees the input level,
volume control and pre-amplifier stages
individually grounded in order to minimise
interference and stabilise the amplification
process. Surface-level changes include the
dual antenna on the back panel, which offer
support for both Bluetooth and wi-fi
(2.4GHz and 5GHz) simultaneously, while
high-resolution music playback is much
more inclusive now compared with that
of the DN850. DSD 5.6MHz (2ch) and FLAC
24-bit/192kHz (5ch) files get USB and
network support, while DSD 2.8MHz (5ch)
and WAV 24-bit/192kHz (7ch) files get the
full house – playable via USB, HDMI and
over your home network.
As with last year, the STR-DN860 is a
7.1-channel amp, offering 95W per channel
(into 6 ohms, 2ch driven) with five HDMI
ins and one HDMI out. Two of the inputs
are optimised for audio, for getting the best
from CD or Blu-ray players for example,
while another offers 4K upscaling and
passthrough with HDCP 2.2, meaning it’ll
work all the way up to 4K/60fps. The single
HDMI out packs HDCP 2.2 too.
As with last year, legacy connections are
covered by four sets of inputs for analogue
audio and two for composite video plus one
composite out, while digital inputs are
made up of one coaxial and two optical ins.
There’s a single USB input on the front
panel as well as a headphone output.
Simple set-up
Getting the amp set up is as easy as ever,
with Sony’s graphical user interface clear
and easy to understand. The built-in wi-fi
picks up our network with no issue and,
once the included set-up mic is connected,
the speaker test tones take
no more than a few seconds
to sound. We’d always
recommend checking your
measurements look correct
at this stage before moving
on, and we find Sony’s
results to be pretty accurate.
Within a few minutes, we’re
up and running.
We put on The Amazing
Spiderman 2 and skip to the
Times Square showdown
between Spiderman and
Electro. The STR-DN860
wastes no time jumping
straight into the action.
It’s a hugely authoritative
sound, with plenty of
controlled rumble in the low end, balanced
out with a superb level of clarity
throughout the midrange and treble.
This makes for a wonderfully engaging
presentation – one that pumps excitement
into any action scene, but that also
has a softer touch for taking on the
quieter scenes too.
Voices are direct and full of nuance,
cutting through even the busiest of scenes,
and every strand of audio in such complex
montages takes its place without being lost
or forgotten in the mix. We even compare it
to our 2014 Product of the Year Award
winner, last year’s DN1050, and find the
DN860 tops it for transparency, with more
subtle detail up for grabs.
While not quite as spacious in its
soundfield as the DN1050, the DN860 is
nevertheless able to stretch its sound
impressively wide, and passes effects from
speaker to speaker with smoothness,
precision and natural agility.
It’s a hugely authoritative sound. Gunshots are backed by
a decent thud, while the zing of metal buckling and glass
smashing is clean and clear without any harshness
The app
£free – iOS, Android
Sony’s Songpal app is a
great companion to the
DN860, as it allows you
to use your phone or
tablet to select your source, make setting
adjustments and easily stream music from
all manner of streaming services.
A new feature this year is Songpal Link,
which basically makes all of Sony’s audio
products – from wireless speakers to AV
receivers – part of a multi-room system that
can be easily controlled within the app.
You can connect to the DN860 over
Bluetooth or wi-fi, but be aware you’ll have
to use wi-fi if you want to be able to access
networked content on NAS drives for
example. A well designed, easy-to-use app
that’s well worth a download.
For example, as Electro fills himself with
electricity from the mains power source,
you hear the electrical charge surge past
you from either side of the room, and as the
voices in his head begin to swirl with anger,
you hear them whispering all around you,
placing you right in the middle of his
mindset and immersing you in the scene.
Smoother and more solid
Sony has done a good job of taking the
bright edge off the treble that we noticed in
last year’s model, and the DN860 certainly
sounds more solid than previous efforts.
Gunshots are backed by a decent thud,
while the zing of metal buckling and glass
smashing as the billboards around Times
Square collapse under Electro’s electricitycharged outrage, is clean and clear without
any harshness.
We do think the big, muscular DN1050
has a little more impact in the explosions,
but that doesn’t mean the DN860 is at all
lacking. It manages to deliver enough
punch to convincingly fill our sizeable
listening room, while still remaining
articulate enough to handle the more
delicate elements of a soundtrack.
If there’s one oversight here, it’s that
Sony has chosen not to put Atmos into the
DN860, something many of its competitors
will do – even at this price. But until those
rivals arrive in our testing rooms, it’s hard to
tell if Atmos is a legitimate addition at this
level of receiver, and whether Sony has
made the right decision to concentrate on
the traditional 7.1ch without compromise,
at least this year. For now, at least, that’s not
reason enough for us to dock it big marks,
but it is something to consider if Atmos is
what you’re looking for.
Musical performance from Sony’s AV
receivers is among the best available, in
part because they are tuned in stereo first
before they are tuned for surround. It really
shows. Rhythmically the DN860 shows up
If it ain’t broke… on
the outside the Sony
looks reassuringly
familiar, yet there
have been advances
>
www.whathifi.com 7
FIRST TESTS AV RECEIVER
In
detail…
Round
the back
1
2
1
The STR-DN860 packs dual antenna
that allow wi-fi and Bluetooth to
work simultaneously, without
interference. Both 2.4GHz and 5GHz
wi-fi spectrums are supported, while
Bluetooth offers NFC connectivity
for one-touch pairing.
3
2
Two of the five HDMI input ports are
labelled ‘Audio’ and, as suggested,
have been optimised for their audio
performance. To get the most from
them, hook up your Blu-ray player to
one of these. The central HDMI
input is for 4K.
the areas in which a lot of AV receivers fall
down, timing well and with precision.
It’s a cohesive presentation that does
well dynamically, rising and falling in
tempo, stopping and starting as it should
do, showing off a musical know-how that
we don’t always expect from home cinema
amps at this price.
3
This year, Sony has included the
HDCP 2.2 codec on the DN850,
which means the inclusion of full 4K
upscaling and passthrough up to
60fps. This is available via one HDMI
in and one HDMI out, which should
serve most set-ups.
pushing it through the receiver and
delivering up to a 1080p picture and
two-channel stereo sound. Made possible
through a direct peer-to-peer connection, it
doesn’t even require wi-fi to work.
A feature-packed amp then, and one with
a fantastic performance to boot. Only time
will tell if Sony’s decision to leave Atmos on
the shelf this year was a clever one or not,
but for now this is a superb budget amp
that is eager to entertain.
The standard remote
is very clear, but the
Songpal app is great
with smart devices
Get yourself in a good mode
We’d certainly recommend putting the amp
in Pure Direct mode for the best sound,
extracting a touch more clarity in the
midrange with it on compared with when
it’s off – we preferred to keep this on with
movies during our test too.
Bluetooth pairs quickly (even quicker if
you have an NFC-compatible device) and
allows you to stream music from your
tablet or smartphone, with Spotify Connect
on board for streaming directly from the
service too.
TECH SPECS
Claimed power 95W per channel • Inputs
HDMI x5, optical x2, RCA x3; composite video
x2, coaxial, USB • Outputs HDMI, composite,
headphone jack • Decoding Dolby TruHD,
DTS HD Master Audio; Dolby Digital+ •
4K/60fps upscaling Yes • Wi-fi Yes •
Bluetooth Yes • Remote control Yes •
Dimensions (hwd) 16 x 43 x 33cm •
Weight 8.3kg
4
This is a regular 7.1ch amp, with
no Atmos on board this year.
This is something to consider if
Atmos interests you, as we don’t
know whether many of its yet-to-be
released rivals are planning to
include the feature.
SYSTEM BUILDER
Get these three and you’ll be fully prepared
to get the most out of the Sony
Projectore
BenQ W1400 ★★★★★
Add a big picture to that big sound. This BenQ
gives a sharp, punchy picture and great detail
Speaker package
Q Acoustics 3000 Series 5.1 ★★★★★
As exciting as it is refined, this new speaker
package offers a superbly insightful listen
Together, but independent
This means that your device merely acts as
a remote for choosing songs, and should it
go out of range or be turned off, the receiver
is connected directly with Spotify and will
continue playing from your playlist
independently of your device.
For video content from a portable device,
Sony has included Miracast, a feature that
will mirror the content on your device,
Rating ★★★★ ★
FOR Big, wide soundstage; excellent midrange
clarity; lots of subtle detail; easy to set up; great
user interface; musical stereo performance
AGAINST No Dolby Atmos
Blu-ray player
Sony BDP-S7200 ★★★★★
An Award-winning Blu-ray player that delivers
superb pictures with depth and realism
VERDICT A stellar budget amp that offers a
huge performance at an excellent price
REVIEWER’S NOTES… GETTING TO KNOW THE SONY STR-DN860
Sony’s design is clean
and familiar. It has not
strayed from the tried-andtested look for a few years
now – and for good reason.
1
8 www.whathifi.com
All AV receivers could
take cues from Sony’s
set-up procedure and user
interface. Quick, simple and
easy to use – full marks here.
2
Wow, this amp really
knows its way around
an explosion. Our listening
room is filled with powerful,
clear, dynamic sound.
3
Oh, no Atmos. That’s a
shame, but not a huge
letdown. The 7.1 performance
certainly makes up for it, but
won’t futureproof it.
4
The DN860 is a
masterclass in how an
AV receiver at this price
should handle music. Great
timing and precision.
5
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