Boston Acoustics, Denon and Marantz unleash a deluge of streaming
Almost there now, people – the last part of this report from the D+M Group event in Valencia is all about music of the streaming variety.
Which is kind of ironic given that, for all the five-star grandeur of the Valencia hotel chosen for the conference, the Wi-Fi there was woeful, which is why you're not reading this until now.
OK, so there were a couple of hundred people hammering it with all manner of wireless devices, but to only be able to hold a signal for a minute or two before it dropped was pretty pathetic, and sitting in the lobby I could hear the reception staff keeping up a near constant litany of 'You'll have to try logging off and then on again' as people checked in, tried the network and then called down for advice.
Hmmm… Fortunately the exhibition space had its own D+M network set up to stream music, allowing the large range of wireless products on offer to be demonstrated.
Where to start? Well, how about with the new versions of Denon's Ceol system? Yes, that's versions: not only is there the New Ceol, aka the the RCD-N8 (above left), complete with an improved glossy finish on both CD/streamer/iPod dock/receiver main unit and speakers, detachable grilles for the speakers, there's also a CD-less Ceol Piccolo (seen to its right) on the way.
The New Ceol also has enhanced features, not least of which is the same iPod charging in standby found on other new Denon systems. And on the networking front it now has AirPlay factory-embedded – so no messing around with upgrades – a new diversity Wi-Fi antenna for better network reception, and both 192kHz/24-bit FLAC/WAV streaming and gapless playback.
Oh, and as with other new D+M products, there's the promise of other streaming services 'to be confirmed'.
The system, which will sell for £500 for the RCD-N8 when it arrives in September, with the option of matching speakers of an improved design at an extra £100, can also be driven using new control apps for iOS and Android devices.
Ceol Piccolo, also coming in September (at £400 for the main system and again £100 for the speakers), is very similar to the current Ceol but, as the name suggests, smaller. It's a network receiver, still with the built-in iPod dock, but without CD playback - it's what Denon's calling a 'Clean, simple, minimal and soft concept design', and looks to have the wherewithal to be rather popular.
It will be available in white or black, but there's no firm information whether it will take the 'Noir' name of last year's black Ceol: perhaps having used Gaelic (Ceol means music) and Italian (Piccolo for little) they ought to consider using some German and calling the black one Nacht. Or maybe not…
Also new from Denon is the much-previewed Cocoon range, now nearing the shops with its curvaceous organic styling, motorised iOS dock, and wireless music streaming/internet radio.
There's even a choice of preset equalisation modes for different positions in the room – free space, against a wall, or in a corner – and the system uses dual-layer drivers and reflex porting to deliver impressive bass for its size.
The £500 Cocoon Home is the larger, mains-powered unit, in the shops in August in gloss white or black, complete with flush, backlit touch-controls and a host of neat design touches, and a range of forthcoming accessories including stands and brackets.
Meanwhile Cocoon Portable will carry the same price, but is 25% smaller and has a five-hour rechargeable battery onboard.
Its sound has been tuned for outdoor use, and the combination of sealed controls, a strong metal speaker grille and rubber buttons and socket covers keeps the unit dust and splashproof. Which could be handy given the way the evening breeze in Valencia was whipping up the sand on the beach.
On to the Marantz Consolette, described as 'a sophisticated combination of quality materials. A wooden back casing surrounded by a fabric enclosure and accented by aluminum details.
'Together with the iconic Marantz porthole display, the Consolette is the true embodiment of quality sound and refined form.'
As already mentioned, Brand Ambassador and all-round audio clever-clogs Ken Ishiwata has been heavily involved in the design and tuning of this product, which is why it draws on Marantz design thinking old and new, from the Gyro Touch Wheel and 'porthole' display to the use of Balanced Mode Radiator drive units to give wide, even dispersion.
As previously noted, even the name has history: it comes from the original Marantz Consolette preamplifier, with which company founder Saul B Marantz launched the brand 60 years ago in 1952.
Listening to the system, which will cost £900 when it arrives in September, it was not hard to hear familiar Marantz traits of powerful bass and impressive soundstaging, and notice that though the system is relative small – for all that impression of being a Marantz Music Line component of the past wearing an comedy 'big hair' wig (at least in the lighter finish and from the front!) – it delivers a truly room-filling sound without any sign of stress.
Talking to senior D+M Group people, it seems some concerns have been raised by retailers about the pricing – 'That puts you up in Bose/Bang & Olufsen territory,' one said.
To which the corporate answer is along the lines of 'Exactly' – those are the markets Marantz is gunning for with the Consolette, and it's confident the product has got what it takes to succeed.
But of course there's more to D+M than just Denon and Marantz, and not to be outdone, Boston Acoustics has no fewer than four dock systems alongside its mainstream hi-fi speakers and AV soundbars (which incidentally now start from just £170).
The simplest of these is the £250 MC200 Air (above), complete with wireless streaming from any iOS device, DLNA for Android streaming, and a USB charging port. It's an elegant speaker system for handhelds, but of course it's totally 'dumb' if whoever has the portable device takes it away with them.
That's the reason why the company will also be launching this, the MC300, later this year at around the £350 mark, combining an iPod dock, Bluetooth streaming and an FM RDS/DAB/DAB+ radio.
Or, if you just want to stream from your computer, you'll be able to buy the £260 MC PlusOne speaker system, which comes complete with a USB wireless dongle to send sound across the room, or indeed around the house to up to six MC PlusOnes.
There will also be a package combining the MC300 with a wireless transmitter module and the MC PlusOne to create a multiroom system, again up to six zones (with additional MC PlusOnes available as an option). That one will be around the £650 mark.
One launch, 70 products, and heavy hints being dropped of more to come in the not-so-distant future – see what I mean about the D+M Group reinventing itself?
Now, about those review samples...
To read more about the D+M Group launch event, click here