Technics is back. Panasonic has unveiled the first new hi-fi products from the highly-regarded brand in 6 years. The first two premium ranges out of the starting gate are the Reference Class R1 Series and the Premium Class C700 Series. Both ranges including a stereo amplifier, a network audio streamer and speakers (and the C700 also gets a CD player).
Former Technics audio engineer Michiko Ogawa, now director of the Technics project, feels that people have lost the emotional engagement they once had with the music they listen to, and hopes to help them rediscover such connections and experiences with the help of Technics. The two new product ranges on show at IFA 2014 in Berlin are centered around a concept called the "Technics Definitive Sound."
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This has three main elements. Accurate Digital Technology (for signal transmission with precision phase and gain characteristics, and ideal power conversion), Noiseless Signal Technology (which deals with any noise issues), and Emotive Acoustic Technology (for a clear sound image and spacious soundstage over a wide bandwidth and with high dynamic range).
The new Reference Class system is made up of three components – a stereo power amp, a network audio control player and a speaker system. The amp uses a JENO Digital Engine to eliminate jitter and nip noise in the bud, and Load Adaptive Phase Calibration (LAPC) for flat amplitude-phase frequency delivery. It features a GaN MOS-FET driver for high speed switching while keeping signal loss low, a proprietary digital link input, analog XLR input, analog RCA input, bi-wiring speaker terminals, and a silent linear power supply.
The network player keeps signal degradation between the integrated pre-amp and the external amp low, and features noise isolation architecture and low-noise transformers for jitter-free, stable performance. There are analog, digital and USB inputs, coaxial and optical outputs, RCA and XLR line-outs and a headphone jack. It's reported capable of handling high resolution audio formats (Linear PCM, FLAC, WAV, AIFF) up to 24-bit/192 kHz, as well as MP3, WMA and AAC up to 16-bit/48 kHz.
Though both the amp and network player are no small potatoes, it's the 408 x 1,260 x 522 mm (16 x 50 x 20.5 in) reference speakers in piano black which grab the visually arresting prize. Each has a 6.3 in (160 mm) flat type midrange driver, a 1 in (25 mm) carbon graphite diaphragm dome tweeter and four 6.3 in long-stroke woofers.
The C700 Series comprises an integrated amp, a network audio player, a CD player and speakers. Like the R1 reference design, the amp in this setup makes use of the JENO Digital Engine and LAPC. It benefits from a highly rigid metal double chassis surrounded by an aluminum cabinet, and features large LED-illuminated level meters left and right. There are digital, optical, USB and phono inputs, and this model also supports audio resolution of up to 24-bit/192 kHz.
The network audio player features precision oversampling to improve source audio quality, virtual battery operation that reduces noise from the power supply and Digital Noise Isolation Architecture which takes care of noise isolation and deals with jitter. The CD player includes technology to expand the bandwidth and bit depth to bring out high quality sounds from CDs. There's a left/right independent parallel Burr-Brown PCM1795 DAC, quality analog circuitry and high resolution re-mastering.
The white gloss speakers each sport a 6.3 in flat coaxial 2-way speaker unit and a 0.75 in (19 mm) aluminum diaphragm dome tweeter.
I was fortunate enough to get invited into one of two listening rooms where the R1 system was set up. The track chosen for the demo happened to be a favorite (Diana Krall's All or nothing at all) so I was better able to judge the experience than if the track wasn't familiar. Although quite a short demo, the reproduction was nothing short of excellent – with punchy bass that didn't overwhelm, welcome clarity across mids and highs, well-spaced instrumentation, and captivating vocal depth.
Release in Europe is scheduled for December, ahead of a wider rollout. Pricing has yet to be revealed, but all indications are that neither of these new Technics systems will have budget leanings.
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