FIRST TESTS HOME CINEMA AMPLIFIER > TURNTABLE
Onkyo TX-NR709 | Home cinema amplifier | £800
Punchy, powerful and delicate with detail
The TX-NR709 is a high-spec, highperformance machine a clear gap above its £500 sibling, the awesome TX-NR609. Power is up from 100 to 110W per channel, which translates into a more muscular, authoritative sound. During the final scenes of Ninja Assassin, the Onkyo explodes into life, delivering round after round of punchy automatic gunfire. Effects soar and flit accurately and precisely between channels.
But this added venom and power doesn’t mean the amp has to sacrifice any of the refinement and detail that Onkyo has started to instil in its AV amps.
Trust is an intense film, and the NR709 communicates its harrowing realism with consummate ease. The sense of drama and despair in the voices of Clive Owen and Catherine Keeners’ characters is heartfelt and impressively authentic.
The Onkyo loses none of its resolution and clout in stereo either, although we’ve yet to come across a multichannel amp that can trouble a similarly priced stereo one.
Besides spoiling you for sound, the Onkyo is just as generous when it comes to features. Eight HDMI inputs have been fitted, as well as twin HDMI outs. The
USE IT WITH Band of Brothers There’s no shortage of sofa-shattering action in this excellent box-set
NR709 is also THX Select 2 Plus-certified, and comes with Audyssey’s advanced MultEQ XT speaker calibration in tow. An Ethernet connection allows for DLNA streaming and the ability to access vTuner internet radio, Last.fm and Spotify services.
Video upconversion is included, too, while the amp will upscale past 1080p right up to 4K resolution, even though punters can’t lay their hands on such content. Yet.
If you read the magazine in a back-tofront manner, you’ll already know Onkyo has one home cinema success story this month (turn to our amplifier Group Test over on page 63). Thanks to the TX-NR709, you can make it two.
There’s no AirPlay, but you can access internet radio, Last.fm and Spotify
FOR Authoritative, dynamic sound; subtlety and detail in abundance; nice to use; eight HDMI inputs; good network functionality
AGAINST No Apple AirPlay
VERDICT A truly excellent home cinema amp and a high bar for rivals to reach
Rega RP3/Elys2 | Turntable | £550
Updated deck another virtuoso turn from Rega
We’ve long been fans of Rega’s Planar 3 deck, and this latest version – the RP3 – simply reinforces our enthusiasm. In many ways this deck looks pretty much like previous generations of this product. It remains a very simple, attractive design, with the main bearing, arm and motor (all of which are high-quality parts) mounted on a solid plinth.
Suspension? Limited to three solid rubber feet. Like any record player, this one will always sound best on a level, dedicated support, as far away from the speakers as possible.
It’s possible to buy the deck without the cartridge for £475. We think most people will buy the package we have on test, though, which comes fitted with the rather good £115 Elys 2 moving magnet included in the price.
How does the RP3 sound? Very good indeed. This Rega builds on the balance, resolution and excitement of previous generations while adding more clarity, stronger dynamics and an improved
Updated tonearm The biggest changes over the last-generation deck are the addition of a strengthening brace (which is made from hard phenolic resin) between the arm base and main bearing, and a further refinement of the long-running and well-liked Rega tone arm. The latest version, the RB303, features an improved, more rigid arm tube and better resonance control.
USE IT WITH Rega Brio-R Rega’s new compact amp is terrific and features an impressive MM phono stage sense of musical stability. We played music as varied as Beethoven’s highly charged 5th Symphony to the low-key vocal-based XX debut set, and the RP3 never put a foot wrong.
Make no mistake: this is a top-class record deck for the money. It’s easy to set up, easy to use as long as you don’t mind the manual speed change and sounds as musical as they come. The RP3 is a great buy.
FOR Excellent all-round sound; easy to set-up and use; fine build quality
AGAINST Manual speed change; needs careful placement to sound its best
VERDICT The RP3 is an excellent all-rounder. Few rivals are as fuss-free or sound so good
Also consider Clearaudio Concept £1000 ★★★★★ If your budget extends to it, Clearaudio’s Concept package is well worth a listen
12 www.whathifi.com iPOD SPEAKER DOCK FIRST TESTS
EXCLUSIVE Monitor Audio i-deck 100 | iPod speaker dock | £300
Amazing dock – could it shoot down the Zeppelin Mini?
From its quirky looks to its great sound, the i-deck 100 is sure to be a talking point
Consider if You want a stylish, entertaining speaker dock that doesn’t do much more than sound brilliant
You’ll need A little patience with the remote control – slow, deliberate button presses are the way forward
Make sure You don’t try to mount an iPad on the i-deck – you’ll only end up obstructing the speakers
Avoid Using it in too large a room. The sound might be expansive, but it will still get lost in big spaces
Highlight The i-deck’s ability to dig out a serious amount of detail across the whole frequency range
Dabbling in the world of iPod speaker docks has already proven very successful for Worthing-based B&W, so it should come as no surprise that another plucky Brit with plenty of hi-fi pedigree fancies a piece of the action. Monitor Audio actually launched the original i-deck in 2005, but this first attempt took the form of a micro system as opposed to the new, symmetrical ‘tulip’ design that you see here.
Don’t fear the speakers Designed for small to medium-sized rooms, it uses drivers derived from the company’s loudspeakers: twin 19mm gold dome tweeters and twin 3in C-CAM bass drivers to be precise. Total power output is 90W.
The feature count is relatively modest. There’s no Apple AirPlay, and you can’t sync your iPod to a PC or Mac through the dock. There is a 3.5mm auxiliary input on the rear of the unit for connecting a different external source, though.
The supplied remote has been styled to complement the tulip design and sits snugly in the hand. However, the response of the basic controls for skipping track or changing volume could be more accurate.
One unique feature is the i-deck’s Automatic Position Correction (APC). When you power up the system for the first time it emits three different test tones. An internal mic measures these and either leaves the sound alone, or tunes it for being positioned close to a wall or in the corner of a room. We found the i-deck sounded best close to a wall up to around 30cm away.
Taking the digital stream from your iPod or iPhone, the i-deck produces an open, spacious sound. It’s going to struggle to fill a large room, but the expansive soundstage is mighty impressive. Detail levels are excellent across the frequency range. Spin Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the lead guitar sparkles, while the solitary vocal sounds expressive. Drums
USE IT WITH Apple iPhone 4 A stylish piece of kit and much smarter than your average smartphone
If you’re looking to fill a larger room, then consider moving up a size to the i-deck 200. Monitor Audio’s bigger brother is wider and slightly taller than the 100 as it has to accommodate larger drive units. Total power is up to 140W, too.
hit with precision and a sense of dynamism that some rivals find tough to match. The Prodigy’s No Good (Start The Dance) is a potent mix of rhythms and basslines, yet the i-deck laps them up, producing a splendidly attacking, rhythm-driven rendition of this club classic. Even at low volume levels, the i-deck’s dynamic capabilities shine through.
The i-deck’s strong showing should be cause for concern for the likes of B&W’s Zeppelin Mini. Just how much concern remains to be seen…
FOR Interesting-looking; open, detailed sound; tight, solid bass performance
AGAINST Lean feature count; remote response can be hit and miss
VERDICT A quality speaker dock full of style and, most importantly, substance
Needs to beat Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Mini £300 ★★★★★ The current class-leader and natural rival for the i-deck 100