What Hi-Fi (UK)

Technics Ottava F SC-C70 MK2

This distinctiv­e-looking all-in-one system has been re-tuned and given a number of new features to match its premium price tag


With vinyl sales having overtaken those of the CD for the first time in 35 years, and cassette tapes enjoying a similar resurgence to the black disc, it is almost novel to be testing an all-in-one system such as the Technics Ottava F SC-C70 MK2 in 2021.

We’re very much in favour of any physical media inclusion in a sector that is increasing­ly geared towards streaming, of course; it’s just a pleasant surprise when there’s a wireless speaker asking us to dig into our racks of CDS.

This is the second generation of Technics’s most premium Ottava wireless speaker, adding features such as Auto Space Tune along with a complete retune for its sonic presentati­on. We didn’t get our hands on the first one, but did spend some time with the four-star Ottava S SC-C30 – the baby of the group – so feel justified in having high expectatio­ns.

That said, you shouldn’t really need any prior knowledge of the range to expect something for the money you’ll have to pay. A price tag of £799 certainly isn’t the weightiest among the wireless speakers we’ve tested, but it does place the SC-C70 MK2 in a premium bracket.

A challengin­g arena

We’ve heard plenty of speakers that can comfortabl­y account for prices doubling that of this Technics, even without bonuses such as the CD player. But to get an idea of how stiff competitio­n is here, we dished out only one 2020 What Hi-fi? Award to a wireless speaker costing more than £500, and that one is £50 cheaper than the SC-C70 MK2. Essentiall­y, this is a lot of money to spend, and you’re well within your rights to expect something special in return.

There are certainly aspects of the SC-C70 MK2’S constructi­on that resonate with its price. Opening the packaging reveals a thick aluminium top panel – either grey or black, depending on which of the two finishes you’ve chosen – and the speaker’s weight as you lift it from the box is equally reassuring.

It looks pretty good, too. There’s an industrial stylishnes­s to its straight lines and its vent-like grille, that stands out just enough while hopefully not dating it too much into the future; a speaker like this should have some staying power.

The OLED display is small but functional, while that top plate also houses a few well-engineered push buttons alongside a row of touch controls for playback. You probably won’t be up this close often, though, thanks to the included remote control and the ability to work the SC-C70 MK2 via its app.

Around the back, there are inputs for aux, optical and USB, alongside connection­s for the included radio antenna, power and wired internet. These are all sandwiched between a pair of reflex ports that complement a quintet of drivers inside. Most notable among these is the SC-C70 MK2’S downward-firing subwoofer, which you’ll feel if you stroke the speaker’s undercarri­age. It’s a 12cm driver aiming to add some serious depth to the pair of forward-firing 8cm drivers taking care of the speaker’s midrange.

In this second-generation SC-C70, these drivers are said to benefit from the reduced weight of their voice coil, enhanced airflow and increased rigidity, and aren’t the only components to have undergone a major revamp.

The pair of 2cm dome tweeters are much changed, too, with a lighter silk diaphragm and optimised acoustic lens for improved dispersion. And each section has one of a trio of JENO Engine full digital amp units, delivering 30W to the tweeters and midrange drivers and 40W to the sub.

Finishing touches

There’s a lot packed in, and it becomes evident that it’s the SC-C70 MK2’S interior, along with the top plate, that provides most of the weight. Unfortunat­ely, the rest of the outside is rather plasticky to the touch. That might not be of great importance, but it’s a feature that extends to the swivelling CD lid. Initial hope that this might be glass is soon quashed, and a less-than-smooth finish on the edge only compounds the sense of disappoint­ment.

At least we can’t fault the feature list. Built-in Google Chromecast means the SC-C70 MK2 is primed for multi-room use, while Apple Airplay 2 and Bluetooth also offer wireless playback options. That is, of course, along with the CD drive, DAB+ and FM radio, and analogue and digital inputs.

Less ordinary, though, is Technics’s Space Tune technology, and more importantl­y this speaker’s new automatic function. The MK1 offered presets of Free, Near the Wall, and Near the Corner; all of those are present again for quick Eqing, depending on where your speaker is placed, but the new Auto function can do it all more precisely by using test tones and on-board mics for optimal sound.

You can even go further, using the Technics Audio Center app to adjust settings depending on your listening position. IOS devices can also be used to measure room noise and acoustic condition as well as further calibratin­g sound characteri­stics.

Some tuning could be vital, depending on your room, as there’s a lot of power coming from the SC-C70 MK2 that needs to be kept tame. Most notably in the low end, where that subwoofer proves a sound investment early on for those who like a lot of bass.

Balancing act

The key, of course, is finding a good balance; the Auto Space Tune does a good job of that, and the ability to further tweak is welcome. But you won’t be criticisin­g this Technics for not having enough in the way of bass weight.

Detail levels are generally okay as well, giving enough informatio­n to keep that full-bodied presentati­on from becoming soft – in the upper registers at least. Unfortunat­ely, though, the other side of all that bass is that the mix is a bit of a blunt object and rather bereft of detail.

Despite that slightly corpulent low end, timing is still surprising­ly good. It is an aspect with which a lot of really bassy-sounding products often struggle, appearing slow or muddled, but the SC-C70 MK2 is actually rather good at keeping time.

Vacant expression

However, because that accurate timing is betrayed by a real dearth of dynamic expression, it fails to deliver any great sense of rhythm. This is our main gripe: there is such a lack of expression it quickly becomes a wearing listen.

We sit there willing the SC-C70 MK2 to appear a little more interested in the music we’re sharing with it, but it has made up its mind. It’s even more of a shame when you consider all the power it flaunts delivering those bass frequencie­s; even if just a little more of that was directed at giving some punch, this would be a more entertaini­ng listen.

And, as we noted earlier, the SC-C70 MK2 has entered the market among some seriously talented rivals. If we were underwhelm­ed with its performanc­e at first, the Technics loses only more ground when we compare it with the

Award-winning Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation. There’s no CD player here, of course, but you should ask yourself whether you really need one; the Naim is leagues ahead in terms of detail, rhythmic sense and excitement. And you can always put the money saved towards a CD transport later on if necessary.

You’d even get a better all-round performanc­e by going for a micro system such as the Denon D-M41DAB. Again there are compromise­s – the stereo speakers are separate, so it isn’t a one-box solution, and your only wireless streaming is via Bluetooth – but if CD is your main concern, then it’s a no-brainer in terms of sonic performanc­e and value.

For anyone considerin­g buying the Technics SC-C70 MK2, our advice would be to go back to the drawing board and think about what you’re willing to compromise. Our choice would always be features or space, rather than compromisi­ng on sound.

Regardless of whether or not there is a true like-for-like alternativ­e, the Ottava F is just too expensive to sound this lifeless. A re-tune from Technics’ sound engineers might be able to solve its issues – the feature set and building blocks of a good performanc­e are here – but at the moment you’d need some specific requiremen­ts to consider this a worthy buy.

“We sit there willing the SC-C70 MK2 to appear a little more interested in the music we’re sharing with it, but it has made up its mind. It’s even more of a shame when you consider all the power it flaunts delivering that bass”

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 ??  ?? All the inputs are located between a pair of reflex ports on the back
All the inputs are located between a pair of reflex ports on the back
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