Compact in dimensions however not in options and efficiency, the Technics Ottava f SC-C70MK2 is a next-generation all-in-one sound system infused with a most congenial and accommodating spirit. A persona child with numerous pizazz, nearly juke-boxish in its bubbly effervescence, the Ottava f is tuned to deliver out the entertaining finest in nearly something you throw at it through arduous items (CDs), streaming providers, broadcast radio, and outboard gadgets, too.
A musical time period, the Italian “ottava” means “at an octave larger or decrease than written,” and the f is for “forté,” becoming descriptions for this overachieving music system that likewise scribbles outdoors the strains, confounding expectations for what an all-in-one music field can ship.
Even earlier than you flip it on, the trendy seems and stable construct make a robust first and lasting impression on this thousand-dollar bundle of goodness. There’s a lot to love right here: the premium-grade brushed-aluminum prime and gray-finned entrance; the tactile hands-on operation, with top-mounted bodily buttons for energy and quantity; and the flush, touch-sensitive transport and mode buttons. Adjoining is an progressive swing-around cowl exposing the CD participant. Fabricated from thick, smokey plexiglass, the lid seems sturdy, however maintain it out of tykes’ attain.
Operation additionally is feasible from a generously sized IR distant management (with 9 devoted programmable Favorites buttons) and—better of all—from the simply mastered, largely cooperative Technics Audio Heart (TAC) app on your smartphone or pill. TAC communicates to the music field through the identical dual-band Wi-Fi 5 connection the Ottava makes use of to play music from streaming providers.
If your house suffers wi-fi sign congestion, there’s a ten/100 ethernet port for hardwired community connectivity in again, together with inputs for optical digital audio (Toslink), 3.5mm analog audio, and a USB-A port for internet hosting saved media. A 3.5mm headphone jack is hiding within the entrance show zone, however this technique sounds so pleasing by itself that I felt compelled to plug in my Andover PM-50 planar headphones solely to show the circuitry was passable. And it’s.
To a level, the Ottava’s comparatively small footprint and built-in nature trades on the ultra-compact “government stereos” that first got here on sturdy within the Eighties. These mini and micro kits have been likewise fitted with an built-in amp, audio system, CD participant and FM/AM tuner part, and have been usually discovered buzzing in non-public workplaces.
However with its extra streaming elements and one-piece nature, Ottava’s most evident rivals immediately are the very compact Bose Wave Soundtouch Music System IV and the mid-sized, wood-encased Como Audio Musica I reviewed a pair years again. Each are priced across the $600 mark—40-percent much less expensive than Ottava—and each are interesting of their chosen area. However neither has fairly the sonic sizzle or versatility of this larger-footprint show-off.
Should you’re keen to pay the additional freight and have the bigger tabletop house demanded, you may be rewarded with a extra aggressive, dynamic Hello-Fi expertise right here. Technics literature calls Ottava a system for “informal enjoyment of high-quality music;” which means, I suppose, that content material is straightforward to entry on it. However that phrase “informal enjoyment” additionally sounds a bit defensive and dismissive, which isn’t essential. An Ottava may greater than suffice as a pinched-for-space music lover’s one-and-only rig. It may additionally improve stated person’s TV sound given ample house beneath a wall-mounted TV or one put in in an leisure heart (supplied they’re keen to get by with out an HDMI connection).
With its high-end match and end, this 17.75 x 11 x 5.6-inch (WxDxH), 17.7-pound bundle additionally harkens to such premium-grade—however CD-snubbing—compact music facilities because the cosmetically related Naim Mu-so. Ottava prices about $700 lower than Naim’s all-in-one, and the large black circle on its prime does greater than alter the amount. The second-gen Mu-so, then again, helps HDMI with ARC.
The Ottava makes whistle-clean and strong music with an interference-eliminating twin energy provide circuit system and three JENO-engine (Jitter Elimination and Noise-shaping Optimization) digital amplifiers that ship 30 watts per channel to twin pairs of three.15-inch woofers and .79-inch silk dome tweeters, and 40 watts to a 4.72-inch down-firing subwoofer. That built-in sub is the key weapon within the Ottava’s sonic arsenal.
Should you respect a decent, extraordinarily well-articulated backside finish in your music, mixed with a brilliant and ahead mid/higher vary (a Japanese sonic obsession,) you’ll enjoyment of how the music comes collectively right here. The sub is spec’d to increase all the way down to 70Hz with THD of 1%, however my ears inform me you’ll hear zero fuzz at regular (25- to 60-percent) listening ranges. I heard overt blurring solely after I pushed the amount to the max output stage—a don’t-try-this-at-home 110dB—or after I plopped this music maker on a rickety desk the place the resonating kickback from that down-firing woofer can actually get out of hand.
Listening to is believing
Inspired by Technics’ rally name within the proprietor’s guide to “rediscover music,” I first pulled out among the basic swing-themed albums (on CD and streamed in high-res) that Frank Sinatra recorded for Capitol Information greater than 60 years in the past. I used to be staggered anew by how very important and recent they nonetheless sound on this rig. (First opened in 1956, Capitol Studios in Hollywood stays an esteemed sonic setting—which is why people equivalent to Diana Krall, Bob Dylan, Inexperienced Day, Beck, Paul McCartney, and Think about Dragons nonetheless flock to file there.)
Most strikingly revealed (and celebrated) by the Ottava was the playful, ultra-inventive Nelson Riddle big-band preparations, as horns wail, flute flutters, strings swell, and drums splatter; and the best way stand-up bass participant Joe Consolation inventively interfaces with Sinatra in what was arguably his prime. Try such gems as “Night time and Day,” “You Make Me Really feel So Younger,” and “I’ve Bought You Underneath My Pores and skin.” What a blast!
Listening to Norah Jones’ superbly engineered debut Come Away With Me on the Ottava, I felt as if I used to be listening to the album for the primary time. Likewise for Richard Thompson’s electro-folk collaboration with grasp producer Mitchell Froom, on Mirror Blue. And the Ottava infused Queen’s sonic showcase Night time on the Opera with bombastic grandeur. I can’t say this technique makes all the things sound spectacular. I hoped to realize new insights from my all-time fave classical/rock-fusing group Procol Harum, however their London-fogged/Westminster Abbey-heavy organ aura hasn’t aged that nicely. And if it ain’t within the grooves, Ottava can’t make its strikes.
What’s the key sauce?
Updates to the brand new mannequin embrace redesigned acoustic lenses positioned in entrance of the tweeters that assist throw sound far to the left and proper of the field in addition to ahead. However given the shut proximity of the left and proper drivers—spaced lower than a foot aside—you’re not going to get any sense of stereo separation until you’re seated instantly in entrance of the unit at eye and ear stage. That’s how I listened to it in my house workplace, with the field plopped atop a low Ikea bookshelf. This straight-on spot additionally proved to be one of the simplest ways to learn the challengingly small (1/8-inch-high max) entrance show textual content that spells out the supply, monitor, and music title. Bigger fonts on the Bose Wave and the colour display screen on the Como Musica make their shows simpler to scope.
The complete and balanced sound popping out of this cunning field additionally will be attributed to the newly refined computerized sign calibration system, dubbed Area Tune. EQ presets can be found for 3 areas: free/open, close to the wall, or close to the nook. For finest outcomes, Technics requests you recalibrate with a one-touch faucet every time transferring the Ottava to a brand new spot. Squonky, spacey noises are output and mirrored again from surfaces to a built-in microphone, inflicting the system to change its frequency amplitude and section timing—a DSP course of Technics calls Load Adaptive Section Calibration. I may actually really feel it working by placing my arms up in opposition to the rear-firing ports.
When the Ottava was plopped in the midst of a granite-top kitchen island, the system didn’t trouble firing any power out the again ports. However after I repositioned and retuned it atop a sturdy eating room sideboard, only a foot ahead of a again wall, the participant actually kicked up its heels. This grew to become my favourite listening spot. Area Tune all of the sudden determined to push numerous bass-extending wind out the again ports and perhaps upped output from the down-firing woofer as nicely—a lot in order that after I positioned an Audio Technica AT-LP60X turntable, which has a built-in phono pre-amp, alongside Ottava, the phonograph needle stored leaping out of the groove. Later, duly separated and remoted, the discount turntable obtained alongside famously with the Ottava, co-producing a heat, rounded sound that vinyl-fans will treasure.
I encountered no such monitoring issues with the onboard, top-mounted CD transport, as Technics has a lot experience in disc gamers. Nevertheless it stunned and barely aggravated me that the transport doesn’t play high-res SACD discs. It’s a function discovered within the Ottava’s first cousin, the Technics SL-G700—a high-end combo community/disc participant that goes for about three grand. One other function you received’t get with the Ottava is MQA help, which means you received’t be capable to unfold the ultimate ultra-high-res layer of Tidal’s Grasp recordings. That’s one other ability you’ll discover on the SL-G700. I’m guessing Technics handed on licensing MQA to hit its $1,000 worth level.
The Ottava can decode DSD recordsdata—2.82MHz (SACD grade), 5.6MHz, and 11.2MHz—saved on a server or a drive plugged into its USB-A port. It’s going to additionally decode WAV and AIFF recordsdata with as much as 32-bit decision and sampling charges as excessive as 384kHz, in addition to as much as 24-bit/384kHz ALAC and FLAC recordsdata. AAC and MP3 recordsdata are supported at bit charges as much as 320Kbps at sampling charges as much as 48- and 96kHz respectively, which is definitely adequate for web radio. And if you happen to take pleasure in listening to poor-relation international stations, you may strive buffing that low bit-rate content material with Technics’ “Re-Grasp” processing, although the sweetening is delicate.
You’ll additionally discover native help for most of the favored music-streaming providers, together with Deezer, Spotify Join, Airable web radio and podcasts, and the aforementioned Tidal. You’ll be able to stream music from cellular gadgets utilizing Bluetooth 4.2 (5.2 was launched at CES—in 2020), however there isn’t any help for higher-resolution codecs equivalent to aptX or LDAP. Not surprisingly, music streamed over Bluetooth sounded mid-fi at finest, but it surely traveled far—greater than 40 ft. Chromecast help delivers larger decision, and multi-room audio can be completed with that or with Apple’s Airplay 2.
There are two powered audio system within the Ottava household that help each of these multi-room audio applied sciences, the SC-C30 ($650) and the SC-C50 ($800), however there are many less-expensive alternate options. As soon as I’d created a gaggle within the Google House app, I used my smartphone to stream content material from the Qobuz and Napster music-streaming providers to the Ottava in a single room, an $80 JBL Hyperlink Music Good Speaker in one other room, and a $399 Russound MBX-PRE in a 3rd. And whereas the Ottava’s onboard mic doesn’t reply to instructions spoken to Google Assistant, the group had no downside responding to requests barked to the JBL sensible speaker.
So, yeah, the engineers at Technics have just a few issues they’ll work on when designing the third-generation Ottava, however nothing that ought to make you say “I’ll look forward to the 2024 model.” Life’s brief and this sweetie is able to rock your socks off proper now.