Hi Gordon,

Thank you for your review of the Marantz SACD 30n SACD/CD player and streaming DAC-preamp. I have one question: After the player has been set up on my Wi-Fi network using the HEOS iPhone app, am I able to stream via Apple AirPlay 2 to the SACD 30n without using the HEOS app? In other words, if I’m using iTunes on my MacBook Pro, can I select the SACD 30n in the AirPlay dropdown menu, and not have to fiddle with the HEOS app?

Sincerely,
Brian Woodahl
United States


Hi Brian,

Thanks for your inquiry. Yes, you can indeed stream directly to the SACD 30n via AirPlay 2 from your MacBook Pro, any iOS device, or an iTunes library on a PC, without having to use HEOS. I should have stated this more explicitly in my review, so your letter has given me an opportunity to clarify this point.

I don’t know if this matters to you, but AirPlay sends everything at 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution. If you’re playing high-rez files from your MacBook, they’ll be resampled to 16/44.1 when you stream them via AirPlay.

One other note: You don’t need the HEOS app to get the SACD 30n on your Wi-Fi network. You can do this from the Wi-Fi Settings menu on your iPhone, as I explained in my review.

Kindest regards,
Gordon Brockhouse

Dear Mr. Brockhouse,

Thank you very much for your thorough review of the Bryston BDA-3.14 streaming DAC-preamp. Unlike other reviewers, you mentioned that its HDMI circuitry is based on the HDMI 1.4 standard. Bryston’s current specs for the BDA-3.14 state that its HDMI ports are still based on HDMI 1.4.

In your review, you said that Bryston plans to upgrade the BDA-3.14’s HDMI ports, so that they will pass through HDR video and support HDMI ARC/eARC. I am thinking of buying this product, but want the more advanced HDMI connectivity. Do you have any more information about Bryston’s plans?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Kind regards,
Peter Eder
Germany


Hello Peter,

I couldn’t answer your question about when Bryston plans to upgrade the HDMI board in the BDA-3.14, so I asked my contacts at the company to provide the information you need. Gary Dayton, VP Sales at Bryston, replied: “We will most likely update the unit to include HDMI 2.0a on all four ports and include ARC on the output. It's not clear yet when that will happen since we’re still trying to understand how much software development is required to enable that on an HDMI board upgrade coming later this year.”

Thanks for writing.
Kindest regards,
Gordon Brockhouse


Hello Gordon,

I want to thank you and Gary Dayton of Bryston for your quick reply to my question about HDMI updates to the Bryston BDA-3.14. The Bryston BDA-3.14 would match the rest of my system very well, and I will follow the development of this feature closely. If this update could be realized sometime this year I would be very happy.

Best regards,
Peter Eder
Germany

Hi Gordon,

What a great review of iFi Audio’s Neo iDSD DAC-preamp-headphone amp! I’m currently thinking about adding a DAC to my Bluesound Node 2i. I’m currently using the Node 2i’s internal DAC, and wondering if the Neo iDSD would be a significant upgrade. The rest of my system comprises an Audia Flight Three S integrated amplifier, Monitor Audio Gold 100 speakers, XLO Reference speaker cables, AudioQuest power cords, and a PS Audio power conditioner. I’d really like to know how far the sound quality would jump if I purchased this DAC.

Thank you for your great reviews, and keep up the great work.

Gerald Greene
Canada


Hi Gerald,

Thanks for writing, and thanks for your kind words. That sounds like a really nice system you have. The short answer to your question is yes, I think the Neo iDSD would be an upgrade over the built-in DAC of the Bluesound Node 2i. I’ve never compared the two, but based on my comparisons of the Neo iDSD with the NAD C 658 streaming DAC-preamp (which I use in my current system), and the C 658 with the Bluesound Node 2i (which I previously owned), I think that adding the Neo iDSD would deliver a ballsier, more dynamic sound, as well as a quieter background and improved microdetail. Of course, I can’t be certain about this, never having directly conducted the comparison myself.

Best regards,
Gordon Brockhouse

Hello Gordon,

I enjoyed your review of the HEDD Type 07, and Jay Lee’s video review as well. If you have not seen it, Alpha Audio out of the Netherlands did a video comparison of a variety of active monitors. Included was the Type 07, which, like you and Jay, they really liked. It would be helpful to see you guys audition some PSI monitors, which are made in Switzerland. They have a very good reputation in the studio community. Neumann KH 120 and KH 310 monitors are very well thought of as well. Just some food for thought.

Thank you for your ongoing work and insight. It is greatly appreciated.

Best regards,
John Shepherd
United States


Hi John,

Thanks for writing, and for the lead on PSI monitors. I didn’t know about this brand, and after reading your e-mail, I reached out to them about reviewing their products for Simplifi. HEDD has announced second-generation models of its studio monitors. I expect to be reviewing a sub-sat system comprising the HEDD Type 05 MK2 monitors and Bass 08 subwoofer in the next few months.

All the best,
Gordon Brockhouse

Hello Gordon,

Discovering your website dedicated to Simplifi’d hi-fi has been a pleasure. I find your reviews interesting and informative, and appreciate your demanding approach and the way you compare different models.

With limited space in my home, I recently came to the conclusion that active bookshelf monitor speakers and a hi-rez music collection on a laptop hard drive would rescue me from the headache associated with a multi-component system, a web of wires, and piles of CDs. My Zu Audio floorstanding speakers and tube amp went to a friend’s place, freeing up space for a more compact sound system.

After listening to several active monitors (KEF LS50 Wireless, Klipsch The Sixes, and Acoustic Energy AE1), I decided on the Acoustic Energys. Of the three brands, they were the ones I liked the most. Through the AE1s, my favorite Pink Floyd tracks most closely corresponded to my Zu Audio Omen Standards, which I had come to love.

Almost having decided on the AE1, I accidentally discovered Totem Acoustic’s Kin Play. I was impressed by its appearance, which I think is in the best traditions of such famous brands as Neat Acoustics, ProAc, and Spendor. A sales consultant added fuel to the fire, so to speak, saying that Totem Acoustic products are “budget” high end, and competing speakers with a similar performance are, as a rule, more expensive. I thought the sound of the Kin Plays was just as “cool” as the sound of the AE1s. Of course, the character was different. The Kin Plays were more “cheeky,” but not “presumptuous” like The Sixes. They were livelier than the LS50s, and had more of an “afterglow.”

In your review of the Kin Play, you compare it to KEF’s LSX and SVS’s Prime Wireless Active. The logic of your comparison is clear—all three models are similarly priced. I’d like to know if you think the Kin Plays deliver sound in the same class as more expensive models you have reviewed, such as Elac’s Navis ARB-51, Focal’s Shape 65, and System Audio’s Legend 5 Silverback.

Sincerely yours,
Michael
Russia


Hello Michael,

Thanks for your letter, and for your flattering words. I haven’t heard the Acoustic Energy AE1, but it looks like a speaker I’d really like to review. As you correctly observe, I haven’t compared the Kin Play against the Shape 65, ARB-51, or Legend 5 speakers. What I really liked about the Kin Plays was their big, spacious presentation and dynamic excitement—these are really fun speakers to hear. I think the Shape 65s, ARB-51s, and Legend 5s share these characteristics, but also deliver superior microdynamics and slightly smoother response. The ARB-51s have a warmer, more inviting character, the Shape 65s a more forward presentation, and the Legend 5s have greater transparency.

A fundamental difference between these speakers is that the Kin Play is a powered speaker, with a single amplifier for each channel, and a conventional passive crossover between the amplifier output and drivers, while the ARB-51, Shape 65, and Legend 5 are all active designs, with active crossovers before their amplifiers, and dedicated amps for each frequency range.

As I noted in my article “A Perfect Pair,” “active speakers have undeniable advantages. Because there are no passive crossover components between the amp’s output and the speaker’s drivers, dynamics are usually better. Designers can choose the amplifier best suited for each frequency band, and because each band has its own dedicated amp, the power demanded by one band won’t affect the other bands. If you’re playing loud, bass-heavy music through powered speakers, high power demands could cause congestion higher in the audioband. With active speakers, each higher-frequency band will have its own amp, so this won’t be a problem.”

The System Audio Legend 5 Silverback has a DSP-based crossover; the active crossovers in the ARB-51 and Shape 65 use analog components. As I noted in the article cited above, “DSP-based active speakers have some fundamental advantages over analog designs. With a DSP crossover, the designer can correct the timing of the drivers’ outputs far more easily than with an analog crossover. Designers can also use DSP to smoothen irregularities in the speaker’s response.”

The total power output of the amplifiers in all of these active speakers is greater than the Kin Play’s 120Wpc amplifier; that, and their active design, should translate to more effortless dynamics. But never having compared these speakers directly, I can’t swear to this.

As you observe, there are major differences in feature sets. The Totem Kin Play has a phono stage, Bluetooth, and optical input, as well as analog line-level inputs. The Shape 65 and ARB-51 only have line-level inputs. The Legend 5 has line-level inputs, but includes WiSA wireless capability; and the optional companion Stereo Hub provides HDMI-ARC, optical, USB, and analog inputs, plus Bluetooth and support for Apple AirPlay, Chromecast, and Spotify Connect. These features may be a major factor in your decision.

I think these are all excellent-sounding speakers. As noted, I haven’t had a chance to compare their sound directly, so it’s hard to give a more complete answer to your question. But I hope this helps. Thanks again for writing.

Kindest regards,
Gordon Brockhouse

Hi Gordon,

I enjoy your reviews on SoundStage! Simplifi, finding them comprehensive and informative, yet easy to read and digest. Based on your reviews and personal system choice, I know you are a fan of active speakers for home listening. I’m planning an upgrade to my current hi-fi setup, and the active vs. passive decision is probably the biggest choice I face.

I’m not wed to the traditional amplifier-cable-loudspeaker approach. However, the open-concept room where my new components will reside is on the large side (25’ x 23’, including seating, on-wall TV, kitchen, and dining areas). If I go the passive route, it would be an integrated amplifier and small-to-medium-size floorstanding speakers. If I used an NAD Masters M10 with built-in room correction, it could contribute to smoother in-room response, given the unusual dimensions and configuration. But most articles I’ve read indicate there are real benefits to an active speaker such as the Dynaudio Xeo 30.

In your opinion, would these benefits more than offset the potential benefit of Dirac Live room correction? I would add a Bluesound Node 2i to any active speakers to handle streaming, while the M10 has BluOS built-in. Tough choice I know, so your thoughts and opinions would be most appreciated.

Jack
United States


Hello Jack,

Thanks for your note, and your kind words. I can’t provide definitive answers to your questions, but hopefully, I can help you navigate your options.

I think the Dynaudio Focus Xeo 30s and Bluesound Node 2i would make a wonderful system, delivering great sound, with really simple system layout (which, as the senior editor of Simplifi, I really appreciate!). For a couple of years, I was using the Node 2i with Dynaudio Focus 200 XD stand-mount speakers, and loved the combination, not just sonically, but functionally as well. BluOS is a great software platform for streaming audio, so the Node 2i proved a flexible, easy-to-use source.

I assume that in your large space, the room boundary-conditions for the two speakers are quite different. All of Dynaudio’s Focus XD and Xeo active speakers have controls for speaker position, and these can be set independently for each channel. I found that capability very useful in my room, where one speaker is near a corner, and the other along a long wall. My living space is much smaller than yours, so for your application, a more powerful floorstanding model is likely a better choice.

As you surmise, full-blown room correction will be even more effective in addressing room problems than the Dynaudios’ speaker-position controls, as I’ve confirmed by reviewing two NAD products with Dirac Live room correction -- the Masters M10 streaming integrated amplifier ($2749), and the Classic C 658 streaming preamp ($1649).

If you go with passive speakers, and are looking for an integrated amp with room correction, the M10 is an excellent choice, especially as it has both Dirac Live and an excellent network streamer. Another option is Arcam’s SA30 integrated amp ($3000), which also has Dirac; but its streaming capabilities are more basic -- Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and UPnP. However, like all BluOS products, the SA30 can also work as a Roon endpoint, so if you plan to use Roon, you’re all set. My only concern is power -- will the M10 (100Wpc into 8 ohms) or SA30 (120Wpc into 8 ohms) have enough power to fill your large space? The answer will depend partly on your listening habits, and partly on the speakers you choose, but I expect you’ll be fine with either amp. However, this is something I’d consider in your position.

Depending on your budget, there are other possibilities. NAD’s new Masters M33 amp ($4999) is rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms, and uses new the new Purifi Hybrid Digital output stage. This looks like a really interesting product, and Roger Kanno is in the process of reviewing it for SoundStage! Hi-Fi. Of course, it uses the BluOS platform, and has Dirac Live.

Another very interesting amp is Lyngdorf Audio’s TDAI-3400 integrated amp-DAC ($6499), which Roger Kanno reviewed on SoundStage! Hi-Fi on June 15. It uses Lyngdorf’s RoomPerfect room correction, and is rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms. Another option is Anthem’s STR integrated amp-DAC ($4499), which has built-in Anthem Room Correction and is again rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms. Roger reviewed the STR for SoundStage! Hi-Fi in June 2018.

Here’s another possibility that you may not have considered -- combine a streaming DAC-preamp like the NAD C 658 with analog active speakers like Elac Navis ARF-51 floorstanders ($4599.96/pair). I’m using that very combination, and like it a lot.

I realize that I’ve probably raised more questions than I’ve answered, but I hope this helps. You have some really great options -- I don’t think there’s a bad choice here. Feel free to write back if you have more questions, and let me know what system you ultimately choose.

Kindest regards,
Gordon Brockhouse