Seems every manufacturer has its own take on what constitutes the perfect network music player, from all-in-one systems to standalone players.
The approach with the Sansui WLD-201 is to treat the device as a tuner, adding to the network music playback and internet radio analogue and digital tuners to create what it calls a ‘WiFi Internet /DAB+/FM Tuner’.
The WLD-201 – otherwise known as the WLD+201L – fits into the small, but competitively-priced Sansui line-up being distributed in the UK by Henley Designs, joining the £199 CDD-201V CD player and £299 SAP-201V ‘amp with a DAC’, and shares the solid, if slightly unspectacular, looks and build of those two components.
Available in silver or black, it has inputs for both wired and wireless networking, a single radio antenna connection, a choice of digital or analogue outputs and a front-panel USB for music playback.
The centre of the front-panel is dominated by a large display which you can just about read across a smallish room if you have good eyesight.
Sansui WLD-201 review: control
As well as the bundled remote control, there’s an iOS app, Sansui Libretto, to control the WLD-201: it’s free, but at the moment obviously only designed for iPhone and iPod Touch, looking a bit rough round the edges when blown up on the screens of our iPad mini and third-generation iPad.
In fact, there’s a quite a bit of ‘at the moment’ about the Sansui streamer. At the moment it’s limited to a maximum of 24-bit/48kHz content – so the kind of high-resolution music slowly becoming available is off limits – it doesn’t play Apple Lossless content, and that front-panel USB socket, while OK for ‘thumb drive’ devices, isn’t compatible with iPads, iPhones or even iPods.
And while the Sansui will play MP3 content gaplessly, with only the slightest hesitation occasionally apparent at track-breaks, it leaves obvious track-gaps when playing FLAC, for example.
Not a problem if you play music made up of individual songs, but rather annoying if you’re into opera, choral works or those dance-mix albums where tracks segue into each other.
We also found the Libretto app a bit frustrating: it takes quite a while to leaf through big music libraries, and just occasionally it seems to lose its way, and requires the streamer to be rebooted in order to re-establish contact with the control device.
Sansui WLD-201 review: performance
For all that, the Sansui is both sensibly-priced and capable at what it does do: the built-in FM and DAB/DAB+ radio tuners sound pretty respectable, and – at least with the Libretto app – it’s simple to find and store favourite stations, whether analogue, broadcast digital or streamed over the t’Interweb.
And it sounds pretty respectable, too: by the standards of the very best network music players, the Sansui is rather light in the bass, if tight and rhythmical, and a little brittle and splashy in the treble.
As a result it tends to emphasise sibilants in speaking or singing voices, and can make cymbals, for example, a little less crisp than they should be, making them more sizzle than sting.
Unfortunately, that means it can make the most of the deficiencies of low-bitrate audio, be it ripped, downloaded or streamed.
Things get much better when you use higher-bitrate compressed audio, or even uncompressed or lossless content: by the time you’re up to streaming CD-quality FLAC or WAV files the performance of the Sansui streamer is more than a match for a modern entry-level CD player.
Yes, there’s still that slightly reticent treble – better than shrill and harsh, agreed, but we’d still like a shade more bite up there – and a bass that could do with being rather richer and fuller, while still retaining the speed and drive currently on offer.
Give the WLD-201 a bit more low-end grunt, open out that top-end and address some of the current operational niggles – which we sure can be addressed with future firmware upgrades – and it would go from being just a reasonable budget buy to something rather more special for the money.
Sansui WLD-201 review: verdict
There are the makings of a very good network music player here; not least due to the broadcast radio options it brings to the party.
But while the basics are (almost) all in place, we can’t help feeling a little more fettling would enable the Sansui’s full potential to be realised.