Sound days #7: new hi-fi amps, A/V receivers, TVs and soundbars for 2019

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In addition to the latest generations of turntables, DAPs, headphones, earphones, Bluetooth speakers and multi-room systems, the seventh edition of the Sound Days show that took place on May 18 and 19 at the Carreau du Temple in Paris was also the opportunity to discover several recently released TVs, soundbars, hi-fi amps and home theater systems. Here are some of the new products and key models that were on display during the show.

The Sound Days show was the opportunity to discover several recently released TVs, soundbars, hi-fi amps and home theater systems.

Sound Days #7: home theater, TVs and soundbars

This year, the American manufacturer McIntosh was well-represented in the all-in-one market, notably with the McIntosh MTI100 turntable that we covered in the first Sound Days retrospective, but also with the McIntosh RS200 soundbar that was released more recently. With a distinctive design and the iconic McIntosh VU meter, this model is simultaneously a wireless speaker, a soundbar and a multi-room speaker. Compatible with DTS Play-Fi and AirPlay 2 multi-room technology and featuring WiFi (DLNA) and Bluetooth connectivity, the McIntosh RS200 soundbar is fitted with an HDMI ARC input, an optical input and a USB port so that it can be used as a USB DAC with a computer. It boasts a generous 650 watt amplifier to drive eight drivers.

A major presence at the show with its Bluetooth headphones and speakers, JBL also presented its various soundbars, from the smallest in the range, the JBL Bar Studio, to the JBL Bar 2.1 and JBL Bar 3.1 soundbar and wireless subwoofer systems, and finally the JBL Bar 5.1, the brand’s most advanced model. The latter can deliver up to 510 watts and features two detachable wireless surround speakers to create a genuine wireless home theater system.

JBL presented its four soundbars with wireless subwoofers.

JBL wasn’t the only brand to present a wireless home theater system; the American manufacturer Harman Kardon also attended the show with its brand-new Citation range that allows you to create a powerful 5.1 home theater system by combining the Citation BAR soundbar with the Citation Surround surround speakers, Citation SUB subwoofer and the Citation Tower floorstanding speakers. The main advantage compared to JBL is that each speaker is powered by mains power supply, not by battery.

As previously mentioned in our last article about the Sound Days, B&W showcased its new B&W Formation multi-room range which includes the B&W Formation Bar soundbar. The soundbar is compatible with Spotify Connect, Roon, AirPlay2, Bluetooth aptX HD and Dolby Digital and also supports wireless transmission of audio streams in high resolution up to 24-bit/96kHz. It features a total of nine drivers covering three channels. These drivers are powered by six 40 watt amplifiers, giving the Bar a maximum output power of 240 watts and a frequency response from 40Hz to 28kHz. Bowers & Wilkins’ soundbar was paired with the B&W Formation Bass subwoofer.

The B&W Formation Bar soundbar features a total of nine drivers covering three channels.

The British manufacturer Naim played the David Gilmour at Pompeii concert on its new Naim Mu-so 2 wireless speaker. This speaker is a continuation of the first Naim Mu-so released in 2014, but also provides the latest streaming technologies as well as six new drivers that have been improved and optimized as part as a joint development project between the Naim and Focal R&D departments. These drivers are still powered by six 75 watt modules, giving the Mu-so 2 a total output power of 450 watts. Connectivity-wise, the speaker is compatible with WiFi, Tidal, Spotify Connect, Chromecast Built-in, Bluetooth and AirPlay 2, allowing you to stream music with ease and add the device to a group of multi-room speakers. It also features numerous physical inputs: HDMI ARC, 3.5mm mini-jack, digital optical, USB type A and RJ-45. Lastly, it can be easily controlled via the tactile interface present on the top of the speaker which features a proximity sensor to activate the display when you move your hand towards it, as well as 15 functions. A Naim app for iOS and Android is also available to control the Mu-so 2 using a smartphone or tablet.

Sound Days #7: TVs, hi-fi amps and A/V receivers

Sony chose to showcase the multi-room abilities of its Sony STR-DN1080 A/V receiver. The latter was paired with the new Sony KD-55AG9 television which handled the restitution of the center channel with its Acoustic Surface audio system. The rest of the installation included a pair of Jamo S 807 speakers for the front channels and a pair of Jamo S 801s for the surround channels. Sony also presented many other TVs, including the Sony KD-55XG9505BAEP which features a Full Array LED backlit display compatible with UHD 4K, HDR 10, HLG and Dolby Vision. The Japanese manufacturer also did us the honor of revealing its first ever UHD 8K TV, the ZG9, for the first time in France. The latter boasts an LCD Full LED HDR-compatible display. It works with Android TV and incorporates the brand’s latest technologies, notably a new 8K upscaling algorithm, dedicated calibration for Netflix and an Imax Enhanced mode.

At the Marantz stand we discovered the Marantz NR-1510, the brand’s next A/V receiver and successor to the Marantz NR-1509 and Marantz NR-1609. This new 7.2 channel model delivering 50 watts RMS into 8 ohms per channel retains the main features of its predecessors, namely AirPlay 2, DSD compatibility, DLNA, WiFi, Spotify Connect and Hi-Res Audio. However, its distinguishing features are its eARC output and compatibility with Siri and Google Assistant, as well as Amazon Alexa. The brand also had the Marantz HD-AMP1 DAC amplifier on display, along with the new Marantz Melody X M-CR612 which truly impressed us during our review with the Elipson Prestige Facet 34F floorstanding speakers.

NAD, another leading brand when it comes to hi-fi systems, had taken the time to showcase its latest connected amplifier, the NAD M10 which we recently reviewed on our blog. Featuring a large touchscreen, it can play music shared over the local network, access the major online music services and can be controlled vocally using Amazon Alexa or Siri. It boasts a generous 2 x 100W power rating into 4 or 8 ohms and a high-end ESS Sabre 32-bit/384kHz DAC compatible with the MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, WMA-L, ALAC and OPUS formats, as well as the MQA, DSD, FLAC, WAV and AIFF hi-res audio formats.

Cayin, a major player in the field of tube electronics presented a few of its amplifiers, including the Cayin CS-55A EL34, a 2 x 40 watt model featuring a 32-bit/384kHz USB DAC. The Cayin HA-1A MK2 headphone amp could also be listened to with the Meze Empyrean and Focal Elegia headphones using the Cayin IDAP-6 as the source. At the center of its stand, Cayin proudly displayed the Cayin A-845 Pro 25th Anniversary amp, an exceptional model limited to only 250 units and featuring pairs of 6SL7 and 6SN7 tubes for the preamplifier stage, combined with 300B (1540 DIP) tubes to power the 845 power triodes of the output stage.

McIntosh was also present in the tube amplifier market with its McIntosh MA252 hybrid amplifier. The preamplifier stage is assigned to 12AX7a and 12AT7 vacuum tubes manufactured by McIntosh, while the power stage integrates direct-coupled transistors. This configuration allows the amp to deliver 2 x 100 watts into 8 ohms and 2 x 160 watts into 4 ohms. Our review of this amplifier is available here.

The McIntosh MA252 amp is a hybrid model equipped with 12AX7a and 12AT7 vacuum tubes for the preamplifier stage.

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