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From Hi-Fi World - October 2014 issue
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.
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.
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