Banner
Banner
cookie-banner
Banner
Article Index
Simple Audio Roomplayer+
Sound & Conclusion
Measured performance
All Pages

 

From Hi-Fi World - October 2014 issue

READ ONLINE

BUY THE MAGAZINE (back issues subject to availability)

 

Play it Simple

 

 

 

Simple Audio’s Roomplayer+ combined streamer/amplifier aims to make networked music as easy as possible. Jon Myles finds it also makes a sweet sound.

 

Like it or not, the way people listen to music is changing rapidly – and at a rate almost unimaginable just a few short years ago. Yes, CD and vinyl still have (and most likely will continue to retain) their adherents, but the fact is for many listeners streaming is becoming the predominant way to access music – both for convenience and sound quality reasons.

After all, while vinyl aficionados will always eulogise over the advantages of a well set-up record deck over a CD player, digital enthusiasts will similarly trumpet the greater depth, clarity and musicality a streamed 24bit/192kHz file will give you over a standard Red Book CD.

And streaming also brings other advantages – such as minimising storage space through computer or NAS-based collections, tablet/smart phone control of playback and multi-room functionality.

No wonder, then, the likes of Sonos quickly became such a success story and at the higher end of the market Linn caused a stir when the company announced it was ceasing production of CD players to concentrate its efforts on its family of integrated streaming products.

Since then, no end of other companies have jumped into the market including Cyrus, Pro-Ject, Chord and Arcam – and now there’s another name to add to the list in the shape of Simple Audio and its Roomplayer+ range.

While the name may be relatively new, the company has a wealth of expertise behind it, having been formed by a group of former Linn designers and engineers a few years ago.

Two models are on offer, the basic £599 DAC/streamer or its bigger brother on test here which also packs in an IcePower Class D amplifier (B&O) for an extra £100. Simple Audio rates the amplifier module at 50 Watts per channel – but as our Measured Performance shows this is into a 4 Ohm load with the figure being 24 Watts into 8 Ohms.

Both come in identical (apart from the speaker terminals on the amplifier-equipped model) Mac Mini-style aluminium black boxes, a tempered glass top being adorned with the company logo.

Aside from a tiny pairing button there are no manual controls to be seen and nor is a remote control supplied. Instead, everything is done via Simple Audio’s desktop software for Mac/PC or the free iPhone/iPad app (an Android version is said to be on its way soon).

Inside the unit is a Wolfson DAC capable of handling file sizes up to 24/192 as well as all the usual formats such as MP3, FLAC, AIFF, WAV, AAC and Apple Lossless. There’s also support for third-party streaming services such as TuneIn radio, Rhapsody, Deezer and WiMP (depending on your country). 

Around at the back, as well as 'speaker outputs there are coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs, RCA analogue inputs, a preamp out facility and USB and ethernet connections.

 

SET-UP

Getting the Roomplayer+ going is relatively straightforward. First connect the unit to your speakers, wire it into your network and then hold down the pairing button until the small LED on the front panel flashes green.

Next download the Simple Audio software to your MAC/PC (Apple OS-X 10.8 and above, so Mountain Lion upwards only), name your player and let it scan your network for music files housed on NAS drives, computers or laptops. Our review unit also prompted us to do a software update to the  latest 3.2.30108 version.

Finally get the iPhone/iPad app. You can control the Roomplayer+ from the computer alone but the smartphone/tablet option is a much more elegant and convenient way of doing it.

Once up and running there’s a variety of options available. Simple Audio’s control interface lets you create individual profiles and playlists, tailor libraries so the big beat-loving member of your family’s tunes don’t pollute your classical collection or create a list of favourite radio stations for rapid access.

If a friend pops round with a laptop full of music and joins the network the Roomplayer+ will also create a new library for that collection.

 

 

 

 

Rear connections include digital S/PDIF and coaxial out as well as USB, 

sub-woofer and RCA jacks.

 

 

 

MULTI-ROOM

For multi-room capability simply add more slave Roomplayers to the network – either the amplifier-equipped module into a pair of ‘speakers or the basic streamer/DAC into an existing hi-fi set-up.

Simple Audio uses its own Powerline audio streaming technology that sends data over a home’s mains electricity network to connect the various units. This may cause some controversy in certain quarters – but the company says this method is more robust than wi-fi with faster transfer speeds which reduces the chances of drop-outs and avoids excessive buffering with high-resolution material.

It also means various Roomplayers can be located anywhere in the house no matter how large the abode, without any fear of thick walls or other obstructions interfering with the signal.

Once more than one Roomplayer+ is operating, Simple Audio’s control software allows different music to be played in various rooms, different areas being grouped together, or the same selection played everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

The Roomplayer+ is built around a Class D IcePower amplifier and a

Wolfson 24/192-capable DAC

 


SOUND QUALITY

Considering the Roomplayer+’s small size allied to all the software innovation crammed into it, you’d be forgiven for thinking actual sound quality may have taken a back seat in the design process. Thankfully, you can think again.

The Simple Audio device instead has a very clean, clear and articulate character. The sound is not clinically drab and dry in the way of some Class D amplifiers, that present music in a mechanical and emotionless way. Instead there’s a slight warmth on show which gives it a more easy-going nature than many other streamers at this price point.

 

Indeed Roomplayer+ seems to major on getting the most out of whatever format it is playing – be that a compressed MP3 or a high-resolution 24/192 file.

Streaming a 24/96 FLAC file of The Smiths’ ‘The Queen Is Dead’ and Johnny Marr’s guitar was crisp and detailed, with Morrissey’s vocal inflections sounding suitably impassioned.

Most impressively the Simple Audio had an admirable sense of rhythm, bass and drums pounding along and sounding deep and solid.

In fact its bass is a particular stand-out element, being taut and tuneful at all times. For evidence, a CD rip of The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ really drew some power from our resident Tannoy Kensington GR loudspeakers (see exclusive review next issue) without sounding lumpen or out of control.

Admittedly, the Tannoys are a bit of a mis-match for the Roomplayer+ and its Class D amplifier – highlighting its relative lack of absolute detail and lack of the sort of expansive soundstage you’ll get from a more expensive standalone Class A/B powerhouse.

But pair them with something more realistic – like a pair of Acoustic Energy 101 standmounts or the JBL Studio 290 floorstanders reviewed elsewhere in this issue – and the sound becomes considerably more suitable. Indeed the JBLs wide, expansive soundstage and powerful presentation particularly suited the Roomplayer+. Playing Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 through this combination there was a real ebb and flow to the music, with a lush and deeply textured feel to the orchestra. The violins perhaps lacked a little bite – at times sounding slightly rolled off – but not so much as to ruin the overall musical presentation.

 

 

 

 

A discrete front panel includes a headphone socket as well as a 3.5mm 

input for mobile devices

 

And let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Roomplayer+ is not just an amplifier but also a streamer and a sophisticated music management system rolled into one.

 

And in the latter task it performs better than almost any other device at this price. The menu system is easy to operate and, once used for a few hours, is admirably intuitive. The ability to create individual libraries and profiles for various users will also prove a boon for families with multiple music-lovers.

 

CONCLUSION

Simple Audio’s Roomplayer+ is an impressive and welcome addition to the streamer/amplifier market. There’s no doubt its small Apple-like form factor will win many fans outside the hi-fi community – but its overall sound and ability to amalgamate all the music on your various digital storage devices will win just as many within the audiophile community.

It has a natural, detailed sound with just a slight degree of warmth which helps add some sweetness across the midrange while the bass is fulsome and well-controlled.

Its ability for multi-room networking also means users can expand it to suit their circumstances.

Pair it with the right speakers and you have an all-in-one streaming system that is exceptional value for money.

 

 

Simple Audio Roomplayer+ streamer/amplifier £699

 

 

OUTSTANDING - amongst the best 

 

Supremely accomplished streamer/amplifier/DAC with

combines innovative control options with a sweet, natural sound.

 

FOR

- natural sound

- good bass

- customisable user options

- multi-room capability

 

 

AGAINST 

- ideally needs iPhone/iPad to 

  operate

- no remote

 

Simple Audio

+44 (0)141 3310845

www.simpleaudio.com

 


 

MEASURED PERFORMANCE

The Simple Audio Roomplayer+ amplifier produced 24 Watts into 8 Ohms and exactly double, 48 Watts into 4 Ohms, showing very good internal regulation from the Switch Mode power supply (SMPS). 

Via the Auxiliary input distortion was minimal at full output and at 1 Watt (0.006%) with no sign of the usual distortion and noise from Class D amplifiers. Frequency response shut off hard at 20kHz though, suggesting an input ADC with 44.1kHz sample rate – unusual. Treble rolled down slightly at high frequencies our analysis shows, so the Roomplayer+ amplifier will sound clean but a trifle warm, or ‘easy’. Input sensitivity was very low at 1.2V, but can be increased. 

The internal DAC, tested via ethernet from a MacBook Pro running digital test files, was linear, obviously 24bit since distortion at -60dB measured a low-ish 0.09%, although 0.02% is possible, this result being compromised by noise. Noise also resulted in EIAJ Dynamic Range measuring 107dB, good but not exceptional. NK

 

Power                              24watts

Frequency response    6Hz-20kHz

Separation                     89dB

Noise                               -105dB

Distortion                         0.006%

Sensitivity                        1.2V

Dynamic Range (EIAJ)  107dB

 

 

FREQUENCY RESPONSE

 

 

 

DISTORTION (24bit, -60dB, ethernet)

 

 

Search

Hi-Fi World, Powered by Joomla!; Hosted by Joomla Wired.