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Motorola Xoom 2
Remote Control
Music Player
Measured Performance
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The smaller, pocketable (just) Media Edition version of the Xoom 2 is positioned as a portable player, much like an iPod. If you think this means walking around in a distracted trance, headphones making you potential roadkill for the next passing bus, then think again. The Xoom 2 has a lot more up its sleeve. Firstly, it has Bluetooth, so you can send music to your hi-fi over a wireless link. That means you can relax on the settee, press Play and music will issue forth from the hi-fi, as if by magic.
    If you are suspicious about such new fangled gizmological ideas, an older fashioned wired connection is available via HDMI. This is a High Definition link able to handle music files right up to 24/192; it has no performance limitations. However, the Xoom 2 in current form will play up to CD quality music file only, so HDMI’s potential is superfluous as far as music goes.
     The Xoom will continue playing whilst it is being used as a remote control too: one function does not negate the other, which happens to be pretty convenient if you are settee bound.
    Needless to say, there are  a few issues to consider before using the Xoom as a domestic music player. If you want to use the Bluetooth link then you’ll need a suitable Bluetooth receiver, like the Cambridge Audio BT100 (£70) I used, feeding a Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 digital-to-analogue (DAC) convertor (£700). If this seems extravagant it is because the Stream Magic 6 is basically a High Definition audio device (DAC) that happens to interface with the BT100. There are less expensive ways of turning Bluetooth digital to analogue, like the QED U-Play (£70) but we have not tested them as yet and DAC quality is unlikely to be comparable. But this may not worry you.
    Bluetooth works well I find and is not too fiddly to set up, but there is the need to Pair devices where they share security keys – and you don’t want to know about this, nor about limited data rate that restricts Bluetooth to CD quality.
    A wired HDMI link may be messy, but security and data rate are not an issue as they are with Bluetooth.  You need a Micro HDMI-to-HDMI cable and an HDMI input; currently these are common only on AV receivers, not hi-fi equipment. One solution is to use an HDMI de-embedder like the Atlona AT-HD570 (£166 from  I plugged the Xoom 2 into my Marantz SR-8002 receiver and it worked immediately: no pairing, no religion, no security issues. Fantastic!  But only if you don’t mind a wire snaking across the lounge to an AV receiver.
    Bluetooth and HDMI are digital links. The headphone output is an analogue link and you can plug it into the Aux input of your hi-fi amplifier, but I don’t advise it.  The Xoom’s low voltage internal DACs were noisy.
    The Xoom 2 cannot play high definition music files. It handles all music file formats except .wma (Windows Media Audio), up to 16bit at 44.1kHz sample rate. This includes .wav, so ripped CDs can be played in virgin form, uncompressed. Our unit played 24bit/48kHz sample rate test files but with 16bit linearity, measurement showed, so there’s little benefit in 24bit.
    The bundled music player plays from its own library, not from external files or folders, However, there are other music players and PowerAmp appears popular and more flexible, although I did not try it.
    A  MotoCast import App must be used to import music from Mac or PC. It imported .wav files from iTunes on my Mac, but refused to import .aiff files, as preferred by iTunes, which was unhelpful to say the least. MotoCast also seemed to take precedence over an Android file transfer programme that refused to see the Xoom 2.
    Sound quality was a little disappointing. I am used to hearing better quality  from CD rips these days than the original CD, due to jitter reduction from re-clocking. The effect is to smooth the sound, reduce glare and add a certain svelte quality that CD typically lacks. This is, however, when playing from a high speed Flash memory USB key, a LaCie Whizkey, through a Naim or similar high resolution media player that measures far better in the digital domain than the Xoom 2, and costs a lot more of course.
    The Xoom 2, through both HDMI and Bluetooth, slightly muddled, softened and blurred the sound. So whilst bass lines were reasonably similar to those on the CD, when directly comparing the Eagles “Busy Being Fabulous” for example, vocals and instruments  formed an amorphous entity on the stereo stage in which individual instruments lacked sharp focus.
    Sound quality was nice enough to provide good entertainment, but a tad below CD and a little bland and unengaging. Classical music was similarly afflicted, with massed strings in particular sounding poorly differentiated. Orchestral scale was well maintained though.




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