Technology – Audio
Simple Yet Sensational
Bring high-performance sound to an office or other smaller space with one of these smart packages.
BY GEORGE MCCLURE
AT TECHNOLOGY DESIGNER MAGAZINE, our philosophy is that no modern luxury home is complete without a great sounding audio system. In previous issues we have featured sculptured floor standing speakers – pieces of art in their own right – that serve as the sonic foundation in the primary listening/viewing area, as well as articles on built-in architectural models and outdoor speakers as part of whole home audio installations. But what if a client wants a compact, stand-alone system for an office, condo or other personal space?
The cool thing is that there’s never been a better time to be a music fan, as modern technologies have created levels of performance and convenience undreamed of even a few years ago. Streaming music services provide access to millions of songs for a nominal monthly subscription, often in High-Resolution Audio quality that sounds even better than CDs, so there’s no need for shelves full of software or even a hard-drive full of digital downloads.
To access these services, manufacturers have created innovative music streamers, many of which have their own amplification, which makes it really easy to just add a great pair of speakers and start enjoying everyone’s favorite tunes right away. We’ve put together several simple solutions to consider.
Arcam Solo Uno Streamer-Amplifier / JBL HDI-1600 Bookshelf Speakers
Here’s an absolutely great sounding system that won’t break the bank. The Arcam Solo Uno brings total simplicity to the complex world of audio by providing a music streamer and built-in amplifier in one compact, stylish chassis. Boasting class-leading Arcam sound quality, this easy-to-use component requires just two speakers and a mobile device using the app from the music service of choice via Apple AirPlay2 or Google Chromecast. In addition, the Solo Uno can be updated “over the air” automatically to provide enhanced future streaming features and years of listening enjoyment.
Designed and engineered in JBL’s world-famous acoustic engineering facility in Northridge, California, the HDI-1600 speakers deliver exceptional performance from a smallish enclosure. This bookshelf loudspeaker features a 2-way design with patented High-Definition Imaging (HDI™) technology, a 1-inch compression driver, and a 6.5-inch Advanced Aluminum Matrix cone woofer for powerful dynamics and incredibly accurate sound reproduction. The HDI-1600 enclosure is heavily braced to provide a solid acoustic foundation and incorporates dual rear-firing ports for enhanced bass.
The sophisticated curved cabinet features a modern design finished in a choice of automotive-grade painted High Gloss Black or furniture-grade satin Walnut or Gray Oak wood veneers. A magnetically attached black cloth grille completes the luxurious appearance.
“A Solo Uno with the JBL HDI-1600 speakers makes an excellent little streaming audio system that is incredibly easy to use and doesn’t take up much space in your home,” says Jim Garrett, Senior Director, Product Management and Planning for HARMAN Luxury Audio. “Perfect for small spaces like apartments, dorms, offices, bedrooms and anywhere else you need amazing sound within a compact system. Add in the HARMAN MusicLife streaming audio app and your favorite streaming service and off you go! Champagne tastes for the beer budget, if you will.”
Naim Uniti Atom Streaming Player / Focal Aria 906 Bookshelf Speakers
UPPING THE ANTE IS THIS AWESOME PACKAGE FROM SISTER COMPANIES NAIM AND FOCAL. Half the size of a typical hi-fi component, the Naim Uniti Atom streaming player expertly handles all the top music-streaming services – including Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Qobuz – and offers Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Bluetooth playback. It can also seamlessly play with other music systems around your home and connect to your TV via HDMI, so your favorite shows and movies sound better, too. The Naim App, available for both Apple and Android devices, makes it simple to control your Uniti Atom, and even link up other music systems around your home into a stunning multi-room set-up. There’s also voice-control support for Google Assistant and Apple Siri. The built-in amplifier creates 40 watts per channel.
The French manufacturer Focal is world-renowned for their elegant speakers. The Aria series borrows advanced driver technologies originally developed for Focal’s high-end Utopia line, delivering high-end sound at more affordable prices. The intention was a return to the very essence of acoustics for those who are passionate about music. The Aria 906s sound bigger than you might expect for speakers their size, with powerful bass, detailed highs and a big three-dimensional soundstage. This 2-way loudspeaker allows users to enjoy all the qualities of its Flax cone: neutrality, presence and finesse, which results in natural sound, low coloration, richness of reproduction in the midrange register and tight bass. Aesthetically, the Arias offer a classic and modern design which is the perfect complement to the sleek lines of the Uniti Atom and will enhance the décor of any room.
Naim has recently launched the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition – a headphone-optimized version of the Uniti Atom. “We have designed this special edition of the mighty Uniti Atom to be the premium music streaming system for solo listening – just add headphones to escape into your own world of high-quality sound,” says Paul Neville, Naim Research and Development Director.
McIntosh MAC7200 Receiver and MS500 Music Streamer /
Sonus Faber Guarneri Tradition Speakers
If money is no object, check out this elegant setup from McIntosh and Sonus faber. McIntosh is famous for the quality and longevity of their components, which are designed and assembled at their state-of-the-art facility in Binghamton, New York. The sophisticated yet intuitive MS500 Music Streamer seamlessly integrates both Internet-based streaming music and locally stored digital music into one comprehensive device. It allows everything to be enjoyed with McIntosh’s legendary audio standards – including uncompressed, lossless files. It’s a great product for the music lover who isn’t obsessed with technical details and just wants to listen to music in high quality.
The MAC7200 stereo receiver was designed to deliver performance as refined as McIntosh separates, with the convenience of a single chassis. Music lovers can enjoy their favorite analog and digital sources with pristine sound. The entire unit is wrapped in the timeless McIntosh appearance with blue watt meters, a black glass front panel with aluminum end caps, control knobs and illuminated logo. It cranks out a massive 200 watts per channel of the pure, clean power needed to drive ultra-high-performance speakers.
The show-stoppers of this package are the Sonus faber Guarneri Tradition stand-mount speakers. An acoustic instrument living in its environment becomes part of it, carrying out the functions of both a music source as well as being a beautiful piece of furniture, and this is the concept directly expressed by Guarneri Tradition.
The design of the Sonus faber Tradition collection was inspired by the world of ancient shipyards and the tradition of Italy’s shipwrights. The new wengè finish with maple inlays links it with the elegant and timeless design of the most famous Italian motorboats with their iconic wooden hulls. The aluminum is brushed with Titanium finish and the leather on the front features the new coffee color. There’s also a red walnut wood finish with brushed black aluminum and the leather of the black front, similar to the finish of Sonus faber’s flagship models.
The violin shape of the speaker cabinets is the fruit of careful research and a major restyling from previous models. The curves of the sides change and double, allowing the cabinet to better control internal resonances. The top is accented in wood with the same finish as the sides, and the stands visually match the speakers and combine a carbon-fiber central pillar, filled with a damping material to reduce vibration, with aluminum top and bottom plates. The slim front panel profile of the Guarneris helps to create what audiophiles call “pinpoint imaging,” which creates the most accurate and realistic sound stage no matter what the genre of music.