Technics is on a great run at the moment. The brand had a bit of a rocky start when it was reintroduced into the market in 2014, but since then has quickly found its feet. Over recent years we’ve reviewed a fair number of the company’s products and they’ve invariably been solid and talented performers. Not all have been class leaders, of course, but more often than not Technics hits gold – as it has with the SA-C600 system we have on test here.
We call it a system, but you still need to add a pair of speakers. Consider the likes of Dali’s Oberon 1 standmounters (£399 / $599 / AU$719) a good starting point, but the SA-C600 has enough ability to justify going as high as KEF’s mighty LS50 Metas (£999 / $1599 / AU$2495). Fortunately, we have a pair of KEFs on hand for this test and use them alongside our usual reference speakers, the ATC SCM50.
The SA-C600 really is a well-equipped unit. Technics has seen fit to include a CD player alongside the more usual network streaming capabilities with up to 32-bit/384kHz file compatibility. There is support for Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon Music, as well as DAB/DAB+ and FM radio. You also have a choice of Bluetooth, Chromecast and AirPlay 2 in addition to a raft of physical analogue (stereo RCA) and digital connections (USB Type A, USB Type B, coax and optical). Note, there is also a moving magnet phono stage, which makes sense given the brand’s strong connection to record player manufacturing.
That’s a pretty comprehensive list that seems at odds with the SA-C600’s simple yet elegant appearance. Yet, it remains easy to use thanks to a nice, sensibly laid-out remote handset and a well-conceived app that makes setting up the unit a breeze. It’s a good job the dedicated app is so well designed because relying solely on the handset and the large but simple front panel display to work through the various parameters proves pretty clunky.
Sources CD, Phono MM, Network streaming, Bluetooth
Network: Wi-fi and ethernet
Inputs: RCA, Phono MM, USB Type A, USB Type B, optical, coaxial
Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256
Streaming features: AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Bluetooth
Radio tuners: DAB/DAB+, FM
Outputs: 3.5mm headphone, subwoofer
Power output: 30 watts per channel
Dimensions (hwd): 9.4 x 34 x 34cm
There is substance behind the classy aesthetics too, with the casework feeling solid and neatly finished. The SA-C600’s aluminium top panel is a pleasing touch, though most of the chassis is made of robust feeling plastic that does the job but also reflects the price point. We like the tactility of the swivelling transparent CD cover on the top; it’s made of toughened acrylic and feels good to use.
So, the Technics SA-C600 is generously featured, nice to use and built well. The final part, arguably the most difficult one, is to sound good. Here it passes with flying colours. While it is tempting to go through each source separately there is really no need to do so, as the SA-C600 proves an admirably consistent performer across the board, bar one slight exception. It produces musically compelling results regardless of whether we listen to CD, radio or stream high-res files across our network.
Listen to Bob Marley’s Legend set and the Technics captures the generally easy flow of the music well. It’s an expressive and punchy performer that builds its performance around a solid framework of surefooted rhythmic drive and expressive dynamics. Details levels are good, but it is the confident way this unit organises that information into a cohesive and musical whole that really impresses. It isn’t long before our attention is focused on the spellbinding music rather than the mechanics of hi-fi. Basslines are taut and tuneful, while Marley’s voice comes through with clarity and passion intact.
Tonally, this is a smooth and refined presentation, as is the Technics way, but there is enough attack when the music demands. This impression is reinforced when we switch to Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes set. The hard-charging version of The Ghost Of Tom Joad on this album is a stern test for any piece of hi-fi with its full-throttle attitude and crunching beat, and we’re pleased to report that the Technics copes admirably. It has a solid, robust sound that conveys the song’s energy well, and the resolving power to keep instrumental strands separate enough so it doesn’t end up sounding like a confused mess. Most of all it is an entertaining listen, one that manages to communicate the musical message effectively.
Mahler’s Symphony No.10 is a dense and demanding piece of classical music. The Technics does well, though to be fair if you’re after the last word in insight a well-chosen combination of separates will do better. Regardless, the SA-C600 captures the feel of the music convincingly, delivering a combination of drama and fluidity that grabs a firm hold of our attention. A claimed power output of 30 watts per channel (into 8 ohms) is pretty modest, but the SA-C600 exceeds expectations by sounding surprisingly authoritative and suitably large-scale.
The digital inputs maintain this high standard, provided the source is of the requisite quality, of course. It’s only when we feed a signal through the single line-level analogue input do we feel a tinge of disappointment, as it sounds a little more opaque and dynamically constrained than we’d hoped for. Oddly, the onboard moving magnet phono stage doesn’t exhibit these traits to any serious extent and sounds way better than is the norm from such built-in circuits. This phono stage is good enough for most price-compatible turntables, which is an unexpected but thoroughly pleasant surprise.
That last sentiment holds for the SA-C600 in general. Usually, such systems are all about looks and features but Technics has shown that it is possible to add great sound into the mix. It is a really well-conceived product and fully deserves the What Hi-Fi? Awards wins that have followed. Highly recommended.
- Sound 5
- Build 4
- Features 5
See all the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2023 winners
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