Tibo Smart Amp

FOR Good con­nec­tions; solid build; de­cent amount of de­tail AGAINST Dy­nam­i­cally and rhyth­mi­cally flat

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Tibo claims to have in­vented the world’s first smart amp, which in it­self sounds im­pres­sive, though it’s not al­ways ex­clu­sively an ac­co­lade. For ex­am­ple, some­one must once have had the world’s first nose­bleed, and for them it was prob­a­bly quite dis­tress­ing.

So what is a Smart Amp, and why is Tibo so proud to have made it? It’s part of the com­pany’s new range of smart, multi-room au­dio, which also in­cludes the Vogue 3 wire­less speaker we gave a four-star ver­dict a cou­ple of months back.

The Smart Amp is a Class D am­pli­fier with a power out­put of 50W into 4 ohms. As well as wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity via Blue­tooth and wi-fi, there are phys­i­cal con­nec­tions for op­ti­cal and stereo ana­logue. It also has di­rect pre­sets built in for Spo­tify, Deezer and Tunein ra­dio, which makes this an im­pres­sive skillset for a £250 stereo am­pli­fier.

Ba­sic ap­pear­ance

It isn’t ex­actly the most eye-catch­ing of units – more jacked car stereo than pre­mium hi-fi prod­uct. It’s bare but for a few pre-set buttons and small dial on its face – but it’s en­tirely func­tional and we will al­ways ac­cept a more ba­sic ap­pear­ance if it means im­pe­tus has been thrown be­hind sound qual­ity, es­pe­cially at this price.

There is a re­mote con­trol in­cluded, which treads the same aes­thetic path. It lacks noth­ing in terms of func­tion­al­ity, but we pre­dict many will de­cide to con­trol the Smart Amp via Tibo’s app. In our Vogue 3 re­view, we noted a few bugs in the app, par­tic­u­larly when you throw more Tibo kit into the mix. How­ever, it’s in­tu­itive enough that most peo­ple should have no trou­ble find­ing their way around it.

Tibo pro­vides us with a pair of its Legacy stand­mount speak­ers, but af­ter a short lis­ten, we de­cide to test the Smart Amp with some Q Acous­tics 3020s in­stead, which we be­lieve are more ca­pa­ble of re­veal­ing the amp’s tal­ents.

Hook­ing it all up is a dod­dle, and once con­nected via wi-fi we be­gin by play­ing REM’S New Ad­ven­tures In Hi-fi – a rather apt choice considering Tibo’s claim that this is the world’s first smart amp.

Flat-footed

Hav­ing already tested prod­ucts from the range, we ex­pect to be greeted with a sim­i­larly even bal­ance and an over­all easy-to-lis­ten per­for­mance. In that re­spect, the Smart Amp doesn’t dis­ap­point. There’s no overt rolling off at ei­ther end of the fre­quency range, but the Tibo also man­ages not to over-em­pha­sise any hard edges.

There’s also a de­cent amount of de­tail; there’s tex­ture to the moan­ing elec­tric gui­tars that glide through Ebow The Let­ter and crunch on De­par­ture, and ex­po­sure of the rooms in which this some­what rag­tag al­bum was recorded.

But dy­nam­i­cally and rhyth­mi­cally, it’s just flat. There isn’t any­thing here to grab us, to make us re­ally lis­ten. Quite of­ten it be­comes back­ground mu­sic – tes­ta­ment, per­haps, to how gen­er­ally un­de­mand­ing it sounds, but not re­ally what we want when we’re trying our best to test it.

Switch­ing to Vi­valdi’s The Four Sea­sons, re­com­posed by Max Richter, the Tibo fails to give the piece any real tri­umph. Rhyth­mic pat­terns are lost as the em­pha­sis is dulled on lead­ing notes and any punch seem­ingly sac­ri­ficed in lieu of an in­of­fen­sive, but overly placid, per­for­mance.

We switch be­tween the Smart Amp’s range of in­puts and, though there are the ex­pected gains in res­o­lu­tion when tak­ing phys­i­cal con­nec­tions over Blue­tooth for ex­am­ple, its gen­eral char­ac­ter re­mains the same – lis­ten­able, but bland.

Tibo’s Smart Amp is okay, but that’s re­ally as far as it goes. If we en­tered a room where one was play­ing we wouldn’t feel any need to switch it off – the ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple of damn­ing with faint praise – but nor would we feel any guilt in talk­ing over it. What it does is spot on; how it does it re­quires a lit­tle more panache.

“Dy­nam­i­cally and rhyth­mi­cally, it’s flat. There’s noth­ing here to grab us, to make us re­ally lis­ten. Quite o‰en it be­comes back­ground mu­sic”

The Smart Amp is the lat­est part of Tibo’s range of smart, multi-room au­dio prod­ucts

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