Onkyo A-9010

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Meet Ar­cam’s rplay. It’s a com­pact, wire­less-router-re­sem­bling streamer that can turn even the most tra­di­tional sys­tem into a plug-and-play-al­mostany­thing net­work stream­ing set-up.

That’s thanks to the DTS Playfi stream­ing plat­form, built into the rplay. It un­locks the abil­ity to stream mu­sic wire­lessly from smart­phones, tablets or lap­tops to speak­ers through­out the home, and from a range of mu­sic sources.

Full-flow­ing streams

With Playfi’s im­pres­sive mu­sic stream­ing in­ven­tory com­pris­ing Ama­zon Mu­sic, Tidal, Spo­tify, Qobuz, Nap­ster and Deezer, as well as ex­pand­ing to in­ter­net ra­dio, Ap­ple Air­play and com­pat­i­bil­ity with NAS drives on the same net­work, you’re pretty much cov­ered.

Down­load the ded­i­cated DTS Playfi app (there’s no phys­i­cal re­mote) and you’ll be able to stream ser­vices on up to eight rplay de­vices con­nected to the same net­work si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Did some­one say multi-room?

That asks some mul­ti­task­ing of the app, and while flaky soft­ware joins in­ter­net drop-outs and video buffer­ing in our list of pet hates, the Playfi is con­sis­tently sta­ble, as well as in­tu­itive to use. It isn’t fazed by dash­ing through our NAS drive’s lengthy li­brary and, in our week with it, we aren’t sub­ject to dropouts or melt­downs.

The rplay sup­ports PCM files up to 24-bit/192khz – the DTS Playfi app has a ‘Crit­i­cal Lis­ten­ing’ mode that al­lows na­tive stream­ing up to 192khz with­out down­sam­pling.

In typ­i­cal Ar­cam fash­ion, care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion has been taken with the in­ter­nal ar­chi­tec­ture of the box it­self to re­duce noise and dis­tor­tion. The four-layer cir­cuit board re­duces in­ter­fer­ence be­tween com­po­nents, and the use of mul­ti­ple low-noise power sup­plies aims to de­liver the clean­est sig­nal to the out­put stage.

Con­nect­ing an rplay to an am­pli­fier or ex­ter­nal DAC can hap­pen ei­ther by one of its two line-level out­puts or via its sin­gle coax­ial out­put.

Our choice of am­pli­fier for con­nec­tion to the rplay is Onkyo’s multi-award­win­ning A­9010. On the sur­face it looks pretty or­di­nary. Its ap­pear­ance is neat in a wholly func­tional way, lack­ing any­thing in the way of overt de­sign flour­ishes. It’s clear that pretty much all the cre­ative ef­fort has gone on op­ti­mis­ing the elec­tron­ics.

There are de­feat­able tone con­trols, a de­cent ar­ray of line-level in­puts, a mov­ing-mag­net phono stage and a head­phone out­put. And we feel it finds a great match in Q Acous­tics’ 3020 stand­mount speak­ers. The 3020s have a cab­i­net made mainly from 15mm MDF pan­els but with a dou­ble-layer 30mm top plate and sim­i­larly lay­ered 24mm front baf­fle. This struc­ture is then braced in spe­cific places to con­trol res­o­nances and help with stiff­ness. All this work pays off in an en­clo­sure that feels im­mensely solid and pro­vides a good, rigid foun­da­tion for the drive units to work from.

The 3020s are sin­gle-wire only. Though ap­par­ently a ret­ro­grade step, at this end of the mar­ket it’s much bet­ter to have a sin­gle length of de­cent cable than two sets of in­fe­rior al­ter­na­tives.

We need to talk about Kevlar

As for driv­ers, the 12.5cm mid/bass unit’s cone ma­te­rial has changed from a paper/ mica mix in the 2000 se­ries to one that com­bines paper and aramid fi­bre, more com­monly known as Kevlar. This strength­ens the paper cone and makes its be­hav­iour more pre­dictable, lead­ing to what Q Acous­tics de­scribes as a “more nat­u­ral tonal­ity”. The 25mm tweeter uses a di­aphragm that aims to com­bine the best qual­i­ties of ring-ra­di­a­tor and dome de­signs: the aim be­ing to de­liver highs with low dis­tor­tion and wide dis­per­sion. Its mo­tor sys­tem uses a dual fer­rite mag­net, and the whole as­sem­bly is de­cou­pled from the main cab­i­net struc­ture by butyl rub­ber to iso­late it from the vibrations of the cab­i­net.

True to type

Over the years, Q Acous­tics has de­vel­oped a spe­cific sonic char­ac­ter for its prod­ucts. They tend to be re­fined and sub­tle, but with enough in the way of dy­namic punch and rhythm drive to sat­isfy. And so it is with the 3020s.

Their in­nate re­fine­ment means that any harsh­ness or edge in the part­ner­ing elec­tron­ics isn’t em­pha­sised – ideal if you’re us­ing the rplay to run less-thanstu­dio-qual­ity Spo­tify streams – though they’re also well ca­pa­ble of dig­ging out a qual­ity per­for­mance from some­thing of higher res­o­lu­tion.

It all makes for an en­er­getic, ex­cit­ing per­for­mance with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the kind of ma­tu­rity you’d ex­pect from a sys­tem cost­ing eight-tenths of a grand. Ex­pert tim­ing and im­pres­sive dy­namic range keep mu­sic in­ter­est­ing as well as en­ter­tain­ing, and there’s plenty of in­sight for those deep lis­tens as well as the abil­ity to power a party.

So many en­try-level prod­ucts seem keen to over-egg cer­tain aspects of sonic per­for­mance, as if at­tempt­ing to trick the lis­tener into think­ing they’re get­ting more bang for their buck, but these three com­po­nents share a re­fresh­ing sense of trans­parency that will serve you well what­ever up­grades you end up mak­ing in the fu­ture.

If ever a sys­tem added up to more than the sum of its parts, it’s this one. It’s ver­sa­tile, en­ter­tain­ing and deftly be­lies its budget sta­tus.

“Down­load the app and you’ll be able to stream ser­vices on up to eight rplay de­vices con­nected to the same net­work. Did some­one say multi-room?”

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