The Shanling MC-30 has had a steep £300 premium price-hike applied since we last tested it, as a result of a particularly vicious case of currency-exchange/component price complications.
It's bad news for UK distributor, Real Hi-fi, but at £800 the MC-30 clearly has to lose a star.
Which is a shame really, as we're big fans of the Chinese ‘music centre', we're even keen on the crazy looks, the combination of valves, aluminium and neon lighting combining to create a machine that looks like a 1950's comic-book artist's drawing of an alien power station.
For your money you get a top-mounted CD player, a clear-sounding AM/FM tuner, and what looks like an iPod dock, but is simply a cradle with a 3.5mm input built-in.
Oh, and there's a lovely, weighty remote.
More after the break
One thing we should tackle head-on is the Shanling's power output – just 3 Watts per channel – which means it must be partnered with easy-to-drive speakers.
Even then it won't produce huge volumes – still, it'll go loud enough for the average British living room, and the sound it produces is disarmingly pleasant.An emotional performerKick-off with Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman's Time to Say Goodbye and the richness and fluidity of the delivery serve further to enhance the track's emotive nature.
Detail levels, flow and refinement all impress, as do low-level dynamics, but when it comes to the grand shifts towards the track's crescendo, the MC-30 struggles to convey the full drama.
Switch to a track further outside the Shanling's comfort zone, such as the jangle of Dananananananananaykroyd's Black Wax, and although it reproduces the warm bass and sparkly treble in style, it lacks the attacking precision to suit the organised chaos of the music.
What confirmed the Shanling's three-star verdict was the warped chassis of our new sample, which saw one of the unit's four feet remain off the rack. That shouldn't even be a possibility at this sort of price.