Future Publishing Ltd

Tech & Gaming
Best Buys – Audio & AV

Best Buys – Audio & AV Issue 1 - 2019

Best Buys Audio & AV is loaded to the gills with authoritative reviews on all types of hi-fi and home theatre products, from wireless speakers to valve amplifiers, AV projectors and streaming computer audio – it’s a must-read for those looking to assemble or upgrade their home entertainment systems. By publishing easy-to-read, well researched reviews, Best Buys Audio & AV provides at-a-glance summaries together with detailed reviews by Australia’s most experienced hi-fi and AV teams from Sound+Image and Australian Hi-Fi magazines.

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2 Issues

in this issue

6 min.
bluesound 2i

Bluesound was quick to establish its credentials as a high-quality platform for enjoying music throughout your home. Key to its success has been its ease of use, with one of the most attractive and effective apps for selecting what you want to play and where you want to play it, including the ability to play to multiple rooms at once. From the very beginning one key differentiator against some rival multiroom systems has been that Bluesound has allowed high-res audio to be played, which some rivals haven’t. And of course you can use it to play from online streaming services, some free, some (like Spotify and Tidal) requiring subscription. But while these things about Bluesound have remained the same, much has also changed since its original launch, especially in the latest…

7 min.
cocktail audio x14

How simple do you want your music system? The time-honoured approach of hi-fi separates has been to have a separate box for each function — a couple of sources, tape deck, amplifier and so on. That takes up a lot of space, and uses a whole lotta cables. So how about putting everything in one box? How about adding an internal hard drive which can not only store music files but can also make recordings from anything plugged in? How about networking the box so it can deliver internet radio and network streaming, as well as USB playback? That’s Cocktail Audio’s impressive little X14. EQUIPMENT Cocktail Audio has a range of full-size hi-fi components, but the X14 is clearly designed as their pint-sized power pack. Despite being just 18cm wide and 10cm high, it…

6 min.
jbl link view

The smart speaker market has just graduated to include screens — Google’s Home Hub and the Amazon Echo Show have both arrived… but with one or two exceptions, neither company has a good record when it comes to sound quality. JBL, on the other hand, is a loudspeaker company that has got smart, selling frankly astounding numbers of its wireless speakers, then being very quick to implement Google Voice Assistant into its Link smart speaker range, and now bringing this touch-screen JBL Link View to market in Australia at a remarkable price of just $349 (indeed rather less as we write). It is a useful thing? Hell, yes. For a start you get everything you’d normally get with a Google smart speaker. Ask it questions, have it tell you jokes, bark like…

8 min.
arcam hda cds50

Many audiophiles are ‘rusted on’ followers of Arcam, having been fans of this British brand since its humble beginnings back in 1976, when it started life in Cambridgeshire, England, as ‘Amplification & Recording Cambridge’ — a name that was soon after sensibly abbreviated to Arcam. However, following Samsung’s purchase of Arcam (adding to a high-end hi-fi portfolio that now includes JBL, Lexicon, Revel and Mark Levinson) we suspect that many of those rusted-on followers were waiting with bated breath to see what the first new range under new ownership looked like. As you can see, it’s basically ‘same same’ — nothing’s changed dramatically. All three components in Arcam’s new HDA (High Definition Audio) line are typically ‘Arcam’ in terms of appearance, finish and build quality, those three being the SA10 (see…

3 min.
astell&kern a&norma sr15

The high-res portable player emerged as a reaction against low-quality MP3s and other file formats used on portable devices of yesteryear – you could have 1000 tracks in your pocket, as they said, but only at the lowest of quality. Astell&Kern is the high-end portable division of iriver, and if iriver didn’t quite invent the concept of an audiophile portable device, it was right in amongst the first of them, and has since taken the art to its extremes. Its top machine is currently the $4999 SP1000, which is tagged, a little oddly, ‘A&ultima’. The tag for the more affordable $999 SR15 is the still-odd and rather less inspiring ‘A&norma’, which seems quite the understatement for a player which comes fitted with dual Cirrus Logic CS43198 DAC chips, with which it…

3 min.
fiio q1 mark ii

Like Astell&Kern in our previous review, Fiio also makes high-rescapable portable players. But this isn’t one of them. Instead it’s a different solution — a portable DAC and headphone amplifier. The goal, though, is similar, to allow you to enjoy high quality audio while you’re on the road. It means having this additional box with you, but then despite its considerable capabilities and (as we’ll see) excellent performance, it only costs $150. Audiophile quality is now within reach of most of us. Most portable DACs operate from USB, and are designed to improve the sound of your laptop (laptop headphone outputs are usually poor, being built pretty much as cheaply as possible). The FiiO Q1 Mark II is certainly compatible with Windows and Mac computers in this way, but also with…