Magazine article Gramophone

Downloading and Streaming Are Here to Stay and the Choice of Products Keeps on Growing: Andrew Everard Looks Back over 2013 and Rounds Up His Favourite Products of the Year

Magazine article Gramophone

Downloading and Streaming Are Here to Stay and the Choice of Products Keeps on Growing: Andrew Everard Looks Back over 2013 and Rounds Up His Favourite Products of the Year

Article excerpt

Writing my annual 'pick of the year' in the January 2013 issue, I commented that the major problem I faced each month was not finding products to review but fitting the array of fine contenders into the limited space available. During 2013 things were just as tricky, due to the variety and quality of new offerings, and the previews I've had of late of new products heading this way suggest that 2014 is going to present even more opportunities and challenges.

Things started promisingly last year with the arrival of the Naim UnitiLite, a stripped-down and simplified version of the company's original NaimUniti, itself now available in MkII form. As I said at the time, comparisons between it and the NaimUniti2 are such that 'buying the less expensive system could be one of life's simpler decisions'.

Similarly easy to buy and use is the Onkyo CR-N755 system (No. 8 above), which I listened to for the March issue. This compact all-in-one package is an excellent 'just add speakers' deal at a price of around 250 [pounds sterling], with a high standard of fit and finish, and a sound more than capable of filling small--to medium-size rooms with hugely enjoyable music.

Further evidence of the benefits of the new alliance between Onkyo and TEAC --now together under the umbrella of US-based instrument maker Gibson Guitar--came in the August issue, with the arrival of the remarkable little components making up the TEAC Reference 501 series (4). As I said at the time, these truly are high-end audio components in miniature, and each has its own little twist: there's a fine dual-mono digital-to-analogue converter (the UD-501), a CD player compatible with DSD files burned to disc (PD-501), and an integrated amplifier (AI-501DA) complete with asynchronous USB and several other digital inputs, just as at home with a CD player connected as it is playing music direct from a computer. Another twist on the same theme is apparent in the Cambridge Audio Minx Xi, reviewed last month: it's a compact, good-looking and fine-sounding little system, combining everything from streaming to Bluetooth playback in one easy-to-use package. There was certainly no shortage of computer-connectable audio in 2013 but the standout was definitely the little Naim DAC-V1 (7), a digital-to-analogue converter/preamplifier/ headphone amplifier designed to serve the current 'desktop audio' trend but with its partnering NAP 100 power amplifier more than capable of driving the kind of speakers more commonly found in larger rooms. …

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