Document

SOUTH AFRICA

OCTOBER 2015 R28 www.whathifi.com

OTHER COUNTRIES R24-56 excl tax

A look at the shape of music ownership in the future

JBL now has a complete 5.1 speaker package available for less than R25000

Hear your music at its best!

Soundbars Headphones Speakers Amplifiers Streamers

[email protected] MSS

> Aria 948

Aria 900

Affordable High-End

Focal is unveiling its new major innovation: the natural Flax-fibre “F” sandwich cone. This innovation is the result of more than 5 years of research and a unique drive to work on the actual source of the emission of sound. This constant quest for acoustic excellence gave birth to Aria 900: a range of high-fidelity loudspeakers made in France which heralds radical technological change and launches a design combining elegant classicism and modernity. Focal’s experience and know-how at the service of Aria 900 for the greatest listening pleasure of music lovers. Available in Walnut or Black

High Gloss finish. Stereo or Home Cinema configuration.

MADE IN FRANCE

Authorized  Distributor: Eastern Acoustics 021 797 9540, Royal Cape Park,

1 Londonderry Road, Unit 9, Ottery Cape Town, 7800 www.easternacoustics.co.za

> Aria 948

Aria 900

Affordable High-End

Focal is unveiling its new major innovation: the natural Flax-fibre “F” sandwich cone. This innovation is the result of more than 5 years of research and a unique drive to work on the actual source of the emission of sound. This constant quest for acoustic excellence gave birth to Aria 900: a range of high-fidelity loudspeakers made in France which heralds radical technological change and launches a design combining elegant classicism and modernity. Focal’s experience and know-how at the service of Aria 900 for the greatest listening pleasure of music lovers. Available in Walnut or Black

High Gloss finish. Stereo or Home Cinema configuration.

MADE IN FRANCE

Authorized  Distributor: Eastern Acoustics 021 797 9540, Royal Cape Park,

1 Londonderry Road, Unit 9, Ottery Cape Town, 7800 www.easternacoustics.co.za

A recent U-turn in music ownership laws means it's now illegal to rip CDs for personal use (again). In this month's Insider section, we discuss

how our listening habits have evolved over the years

and how the law doesn't actually reflect the reality of how we use technology.

Bringing the cinema to your living room? The R15k

AV receiver market is the sweetspot for balancing

show-stopping performance with spec and affordability

. We've pulled together three of the biggest hitters at this price to see which should make its way to the heart of your system.

Plugging straight into your computer, phone or music player works, but a standalone DAC/ headphone amp can make

a world of difference to your music

. The four models in our Group Test from Acoustic Research, Apogee, Oppo and TEAC all deliver but only one emerges victorious...

Meanwhile, this month's Temptations include a stunning turntable from VPI and an awesome pair of active standmount speakers from ATC.

And don't forget, you can download the digital edition of the magazine directly to your smartphone or tablet at any time. Happy reading!

Wendy Madlener, editor

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.

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

youtube.com/WhathifiTV

VPI Prime

Temptations p44

It takes it all in its stride, turning what could be an acoustic mess into an organised, cohesive whole

@whathifi whf.cm/playlist2014 whathifi.com

www.whathifi.com

1

> 10 > 15

CONTENTS

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: [email protected]

Website: www.multimediapublications.co.za

EDITORIAL

Editor Wendy Madlener

ADVERTISING

012 653 4801

Advertising director Max Madlener

SUBSCRIPTIONS 012 653 4801 email: [email protected]

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

OVERSEAS LICENSING

International Director Alastair Lewis [email protected]

Licensing Account Manager Isla Friend

Syndication sales manager: Paloma Gutierrez-Keever

Head of Partner Development Europe & ROW:

David Ryan - [email protected]

Head of Partner Development, Asia Lisa Vernall [email protected]

Partner Account Manager Luc Higham [email protected]

Partner Account Manager Giuseppe Messina [email protected]

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

Test AV amplifiers

“The R15k AV receiver market is the

sweetspot for balancing show-stopping

performance with spec and affordability”

What’s in this issue…

First tests

“The Audioquest

Nighthawks are no ordinary headphones. There’s all manner of fancy design going on. ”

06

First Tests

Cambridge Audio is on a roll, this time with the CXU universal disc player, cable company Audioquest have come up with a pair of headphones - the Nighthawk, and Monitor Audio’s new Airstream S150 proves less can be more.

26

AV amplifiers

Denon vs Sony vs Yamaha.

We test three of the biggest names to see who can hit that sweet spot of great performance and affordability.

And make your home cinema the envy of all your mates.

37

Headphone amps

Want to hear your music at its best? Get a headphone amp. For less than R8000, you won’t believe how good your music can sound.

2 www.whathifi.com

Insider

Music ownership p20

With CD ripping made illegal again, we take a look at the shape of music ownership (or lack of) in the future

Subscriptions

p80

Subscribe now and save

Save on the print cover price

Never miss an issue

Test Headphone amps

“You hear parts in your music that before you didn’t realise were there” ,

44

Temptations

This month we’re intrigued by the prospect of ATC’s SCM20ASL Pro speakers and marvel at the engineering of VPI’s Prime turntable.

50

Playlist

Fast and Furious 7 blows a crankshaft and careers onto Blu-ray, and we listen to new releases from Beach House and John Grant.

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

★★★★★

★★★★

★★★

★★

Temptation

“Reminds you why

you got into hi-fi”

New Buyer’s Guide…

two mags in one!

Revamped hi-fi guide!

800 products rated p53

With new categories and key tech specs, we’ve made it even easier for you to pick the best kit for your cash.

Temptation

“When you listen to a great recording… everything comes to life”

Prices

Unless stated otherwise, all prices are recommended retail prices obtained from local importers/distributors, and correct at time of going to print. Prices may differ due to fluctuation of the rand . Where a pound price is given, either the brand isn’t represented in

SA or a certain model is not available here.

If it’s one of our winners, you know it’s top quality

HOME CINEMA

speak ound

Surr

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DIGITAL EDITION

HOME CINEMA

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Product

Boston A

Boston A cou. S/w coustics

Cambrid tics 3000 5 ge Audio

Jamo A10

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www.whathifi.

com 57

How to...get the most from your home cinema p57

Why buy a headphone amp? p61

Tips for going digital p63

57

For a full list of specifications and other useful info, visit whathifi.com www.whathifi.com

3

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

W

ireless

M

usic

D

istribution

s

ysteM

“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 2 4

3 1

1

SONOS Bridge

Connect to your router so all players can go anywhere and work wirelessly

2

SONOS Connect

Turn your stereo or home theater into a 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

5 6

4

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.

5

SONOS Play:1

Fits anywhere. Rocks any world soloist size.

Symphony sound

6

SONOS Play:3

The smaller, sexier, tuck in the corner and blow out the roof, all-in-one player

7

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

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

W

ireless

M

usic

D

istribution

s

ysteM

“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 2 4

3 1

1

SONOS Bridge

Connect to your router so all players can go anywhere and work wirelessly

2

SONOS Connect

Turn your stereo or home theater into a 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

5 6

4

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.

5

SONOS Play:1

Fits anywhere. Rocks any world soloist size.

Symphony sound

6

SONOS Play:3

The smaller, sexier, tuck in the corner and blow out the roof, all-in-one player

7

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

Audioquest

Nighthawk

R9995 Page 10

There’s all manner of fancy design going on

Denon M-D40DAB

R6990 Page 11

You won’t struggle setting this up

EXCLUSIVE

Cambridge gets the universal acclaim

Cambridge Audio CXU

|

Universal disc player

| R25990

Monitor Audio

Airstream S150

R4190 Page 16

A real contender for class-leading status

Want more?

for even more

The display is simple and clear, and easy to read from afar. It is a shame it doesn’t show more additional information though

Cambridge Audio is on a roll. Its new CX series line has proved hugely popular in our testing rooms, with the CXC CD transport, CXA60 amplifier and CXN network music streamer all receiving five star reviews for combining great design and superb performance.

The Cambridge CXU is the latest to join that illustrious list of five-star products. The

CXU is a multi-talented universal disc player that costs R25990, is packed with features and connections, and is an impressive player of both films and music.

Although this may seem steep for a disc player, the ‘universal’ part of the CXU needs to be considered here. The CXU isn’t just a

Blu-ray/DVD player. It’s a Blu-ray player, CD player, DAC and network streamer all built into one sleek machine. The CXU also supports high-resolution audio, whether it’s in SACD or 24-bit/192kHz form. Oh, and it will also charge your smartphone.

Suddenly, R25990 is looking pretty reasonable. But it’s the CXU’s performance that makes its high-end status worth it.

Clean and intense

With the Birdman Blu-ray playing, we’re treated to an image that looks natural, crystal clear, and full of subtlety and dynamism. It’s a gorgeous picture. Colours are faithfully portrayed, with skin-tones and daylight scenes having a realistic touch, while also brimming with vibrancy and crisp detail.

The interplay of light and shadow is expertly done. The sunlight coming through the windows is clean and intense

(but never glaring), while the gradient of shadows in gloomy hallways is deftly conveyed. Dark scenes are pleasingly deep, but without swallowing up finer details or robbing the scene of depth and drama.

Stable and detailed picture

Motion is handled smoothly, whether you’re watching a fast action scene or a slow panning shot. The CXU handles

Birdman’s dizzyingly choppy edits and camera swings with confidence and control.

A glossier film like Guardians of the

Galaxy bursts with punchy colours, rich detail and strong contrast. Objects are drawn crisply, but it never looks overly sharp or unnatural, even when dealing with

CGI spaceships and MacGuffin magic gems.

The CXU resolutely holds on to its punchy contrast and natural colour balance even when we take a step down in quality and put on a DVD. There’s the usual dip in resolution when playing Stoker on DVD, but there aren’t any intrusive blotches of noise.

It’s a stable, detailed picture.

The CXU’s immediate rival, the excellent and class-leading Oppo BDP-105D

(R29790), is similarly adept at delivering a natural and lively picture. However, the

Cambridge is slightly crisper and subtler with detail. It’s enough to keep us further glued to what we’re watching on the screen.

Musical talents

As enjoyable as its picture performance is, it’s with sound that the Cambridge CXU really lets its true colours shine through. It’s superb with music.

With a natural proclivity for well-timed rhythms and a fluid, musical presentation,

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For a full list of specifications and other useful info visit whathifi.com

The Cambridge Audio

CXU follows in the footsteps of the

CX family, with a premium-quality build and elegant chassis

Although R25990 may seem steep, the ‘universal’ part of the CXU needs to be considered. It isn’t just a Blu-ray/DVD player, it’s a Blu-ray player,

CD player, DAC and network streamer all built into one sleek machine

it makes film soundtracks arresting, immersive and full of impact.

With two-channel music, its talents are even more obvious. With Leonard Cohen’s

Popular Problems spinning on CD, the CXU delivers a richly detailed, spacious and melodic performance. The bouncy, seductively deep and rumbling bassline on

Almost Like The Blues is stunningly taut and controlled. The top end is clean and notes soar without ever sounding bright. Vocals are clear and expressive: the smoky, growling texture of Cohen’s deep baritone is conveyed with insight and clarity.

Playground’s grungy tones on Comin’ Up

From Behind given the same amount of enthusiasm and insight as with highresolution tracks. However, play a pristine recording like Popular Problems and the

CXU shines.

Once again, the comparison with the

Oppo player proves telling. While rich and full-bodied, the Oppo’s low-end performance isn’t as grippy or precise as the

Cambridge’s. The CXU is also a livelier, more enthusiastic and insightful player.

No fuss about recording quality

Each instrument is easily identifiable on the spacious soundstage. Notes stop and start with precision, but the Cambridge never sounds too analytical. It’s too busy delivering a musically cohesive and engaging sound – and it’s a joy to listen to.

The CXU doesn’t make a fuss about the file type or recording quality, with Marcy

All popular file formats

The CXU supports a wide range of disc formats, including 3D Blu-ray, CD, SACD,

DVD-A, and even the rare HDCD and

AVCHD. In case you’re wondering, no it doesn’t play HD-DVD.

It supports playback of all popular file formats too, from MP3 to ALAC, WAV and

FLAC, and up to 24-bit/192kHz high resolution. You can also play DSD64 files, but only through the USB inputs.

All four HDMI ports on the CXU – two for input, two for output – can play Full HD resolution. Both HDMI outputs feature ARC

(Audio Return Channel), while the front

HDMI port supports Mobile High-Link

Definition (MHL) so you can directly play

HD content from Android smartphones.

You’ll also find coaxial and optical inputs on the CXU’s back panel, as well as a pair of analogue stereo outputs and a 7.1 multichannel output.

If your music and video collection is stored on hard drives or USB sticks, simply plug them into any of the three USB ports.

One of the CXU’s bonus features – and a very useful one at that – is that all three ports can also charge your smartphone, whether it’s Apple or Android.

Easiest way to stream

As we mentioned before, the talented CXU is also a network streamer. You can connect it to your home network using the ethernet port, or go wireless with the supplied wi-fi

>

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7

FIRST TESTS UNIVERSAL DISC PLAYER

In detail…

SYSTEM

BUILDER

In combination with these three products, the

Cambridge CXU will work hard to earn its keep

2

1

1

USB ports

All three USB ports can play DSD64 files as well as 24-bit/192kHz PCM, and will also charge your Apple and

Android smartphones

3

2

Analogue outputs

The CXU features 7.1 multi-channel analogue outputs – useful if you’re using an older system that doesn’t have HDMI connectivity

3

Digital inputs

You can plug in other digital sources into the optical and coaxial inputs and make use of the CXU’s 24-bit/192kHz DAC

Projector

Epson EH-TW7200

★★★★★

With a crystal clear picture that’s packed with subtle detail and punchy colours, this is a hugely capable projector

The CXU follows in the footsteps of the CX family with a sleek, premium-quality build and ‘floating’ design. There’s real care given to the way the disc loading tray glides open

dongle (which plugs into any of the three

USB ports). There’s no dedicated app for the

CXU, so using the simple on-screen menu and remote to access your NAS drive’s files is the easiest way to stream. Alternatively, you can download third-party apps if you prefer using your tablet or smartphone to scroll through your music library.

Seamless operation

Unlike its rival Oppo BDP-105D, Cambridge doesn’t have Netflix or BBC iPlayer built in.

It does have YouTube and Picasa, though, but those smart apps pale in comparison to everything else that the CXU can do.

The CXU follows in the footsteps of the

CX family with a sleek, premium-quality build and ‘floating’ design. It’s a robust yet elegant chassis. The aluminium finish (in black only) looks smart, and there’s real care given to the way the buttons on the unit feel, and how the disc loading tray operates seamlessly with as little noise as possible. The disc tray glides open when summoned, and there’s barely a whisper of the machinery whirring inside as the CD or

Blu-ray starts playing.

The display itself is simple, crisp and clear, with a large font that’s easy to read from afar. However, it is a shame that it doesn’t show the sampling rate or file type of the music you’re streaming, or any

NEEDS TO BEAT

Oppo

BDP-105D

R29790

It’s pricier and isn’t quite as subtle and agile with music, but it’s still a stellar disc player that operates smoothly and has a stunningly natural picture quality additional information beyond the track or input name when playing.

Singing its praises

Even the remote control feels of a high quality. We don’t often come across remote controls that feel quite so nice to hold and use, so please indulge us while we sing its praises. The soft-feel rubberised finish is lovely in hand, the buttons are sturdy and click satisfyingly, and it responds swiftly with the unit.

It’s backlit too, which is always useful when in a darkened cinema room. We just wish there were dedicated buttons for each input on the remote. Repeatedly pressing the single input button to get to the input you want to select proves to be rather furstrating and time consuming.

Impresses on every level

But if that’s the only quibble we can find with this disc player, then the CXU has nothing to worry about.

Yes, the CXU is a pricey investment at

R25990. But when you consider there are very few machines that can play movies and music at such high quality, and that all this is contained in one box, it doesn’t seem quite so steep. As a player that does it all, the Cambridge CXU impresses on every level.

Speaker package

KEF R100 5.1

★★★★★

A thunderously good speaker package that’s stylish, detailed and delivers a winningly immersive surround sound experience

AV receiver

Pioneer SC-LX88

★★★★★

Our Award-winning AV receiver remains a class act, with agile and precise rhythm, bags of detail and superb bass

TECH SPECS

Disc formats Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD, HDCD,

DVD-A, AVCHD

Music formats MP3, AAC,

ALAC, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, DSD64

Resolution

1920 x 1080 (video); 24-bit/192kHz (audio)

Inputs HDMI x2, optical, coaxial, USB x3

Outputs HDMI x2, 7.1 multichannel, RCA stereo

Network Yes

Dimensions (hwd)

82 x 43 x 31cm

Weight 5kg

Remote Yes

Rating

★★★★ ★

FOR Excellent picture quality; stunning with music; sleek and elegant design; extensive features; high-resolution support

AGAINST No dedicated app

VERDICT

This multi-talented disc player performs brilliantly with movies and music alike

REVIEWER’S NOTES… GETTING TO KNOW THE CAMBRIDGE AUDIO CXU

1

Cambridge has done a great job with design.

The CXU is sleek and feels premium quality. Even the backlit remote is lovely.

2

The extensive connections and compatibility are fantastic.

The display could be more informative, though.

3

The picture is great, but music-playing talents are better. We enjoyed using it as a CD player, DAC and streamer.

4

See the dongle supplied in the box?

Stick it into any of the three

USB ports, and voila – the

CXU now has wi-fi powers.

5

There’s no dedicated app, so you’ll have to download third-party alternatives if you want a better streaming experience.

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