The SL-G700 network, CD and SACD player from audio giant Technics is, as the title would suggest, a wired or wireless network player, CD player and SACD player in one heavyweight box costing £2350. Stuart Smith gives it a spin.

The front panel of the SL-g700 is well laid out and with plenty of space. A bigger display would have been useful.

Japanese Hifi giant Technics has been making a bit of a resurgence of late, not that they really went away, what with their relatively recently introduced new series of their classic 1200 (plus) series of turntables, as well as lots of other separates. I’ve always had a soft spot for this Japanese brand and my first ever turntable was the company’s SL-DL1 linear tracking turntable, before graduating on to their 1200 turntables for DJing duties. As well as using their turntables in clubs and raves I’ve also used them at home, and have the excellent 1200G in our upstairs system. When I had the SL-DL1, I also had given the company’s catalogue of the time and I pored over it, and particularly remember really lusting after the SP-10 turntable in its beautiful obsidian plinth. I also absolutely loved the look of their power amps with their front panel domineering VU meters. Sadly, I have never owned either an SP-10 or any of their amplifiers.

For a good while I seemed to hear very little of Technics other than their turntables and it seemed like they had kind of abandoned the home audio market – how much of this was me being blissfully unaware of the brand, I don’t know – perhaps they retreated a little when the mid-market for HiFi contracted. Anyway, it seems, if their presence at audio shows (remember those?) is anything to go by that they’re are making something of a resurgence and the SL-G700 represents this renaissance beautifully.  So what is the SL-G700? Put simply, it is a fully functioning Network player that will play CDs and Super Audio Compact Disc (SACD) too.

BUILD AND FEATURES

First of all, the SL-G700 certainly feels like a purposeful bit of kit – it is well built, big, and heavy,
430 x 98 x 407 mm (WHD) and 12.2Kg to be precise. The finish is good in the silver (it comes in black too) but the tiny display over on the right-hand side is a bit small to be of any use from my usual seating position, though it is invaluable when setting the machine up.

Onboard is an Asahi-Kasei AK4497 DAC with a dual-mono construction circuit that feeds a variable analogue output so you can plug it straight into your pre, or even straight into your power amp using the remote to control the volume.

The discrete AMP module is used instead of more common OpAmps and it uses low noise transistors and thin-film resistors – the idea here being to keep noise generated by circuits as low as possible, a common theme as you will see.

The clock generator is battery driven to isolate it from any changes in the AC mains supply, again to keep noise to a minimum.

Technics call the power supply for the G700’s analogue audio output a “High-Speed Silent Hybrid Power Supply – catchy. The no-feedback switching power supply aims to “suppress frequency fluctuations”, and again, the aim here the aim is to keep the signal to noise ratio as low as possible.

Technics talk about loads more unique features in their marketing bumph, but one of the things that really did make very good sense to me was the rather grandly named “Optimally Activated Circuit System” which in essence closes off various digital modules (display, analogue and digital interfaces) to lower noise generated when tunes are playing. As well as this, I also like that their Pure Disc Playback Mode” shuts off the Network circuit, with the idea of improving the playback of your silver discs.

Inside, the whole of the unit is split into four sections which house the power supply, the digital circuit, the analogue circuit, and the disc drive.

The disc drive itself is of a triple chassis structure aimed at preventing vibrations getting out of the drive and into other sections of the G700. The tray is die-cast aluminium and again it is highly dampened to stop vibrations.

The front of the G700 has a 6mm aluminium plate and from left to right you have an on off button with an LED to the side of it so you can see the unit is on, a quarter-inch headphone socket, a USB input (to allow you to connect a hard drive, with your tunes on, or flash memory to facilitate firmware updates) and a small window for receiving info from the supplied remote control. The CD tray itself sits in the middle of the front panel, and then you have the aforementioned display that has the usual play, rewind, stop and pause buttons below it, and to their right a multi-control knob that changes the input source and is used for scrolling through the set-up screen. Finally, and below this knob, are buttons to select input source and headphone volume. All in all it all looks pretty stylish and very much in keeping with what most folk would expect a HiFi separate to look like.

Round the back, it’s pretty busy but not over-crowded. On the far left as you look at the back panel you have a section dedicated to the analogue outputs, for which you have a pair of unbalanced RCAs and a pair of balanced XLRs. There is then the antenna for the Wi-Fi (actually there are two of these) and next comes a section for digital inputs and outputs – optical and coaxial for each. File wise the optical input will accept up to 24bit/96KHz and the coaxial up to 24bit.192KHz. There’s a socket for a LAN cable so you can wire the unit directly to your network and then another USB socket for connecting an HDD with tunes on it. There is no USB input for connecting a computer or similar, but I’m not sure that is going to be missed by anyone using this machine given its already impressive feature set. There is also, obviously, a power IEC socket.

Round the back, there are plenty of inputs and outputs and plenty of space

The remote is nice enough if a little lightweight, but it does seem to cover all the relevant functions on the G700.

SET UP

OK, I admit it, I’m absolutely useless when it comes to Network gubbins, but, once I got my head around the instructions in the manual for the G700, getting the unit connected to our wireless home network was pretty painless and extremely fast. Here’s the routine – Turn the unit on, hit the ‘NWP’ on the remote and then ‘Set Up’. This then brings up a load of options on the little screen and you scroll through until you come to the Wi-Fi screen, press ‘OK’ and then scroll up and down using the remote to select ON and then OK – hey presto, you are in Wi-Fi mode and you are ready to set up the Local Area Network. Select ‘WPS Push’ and press ‘OK’ and press the ‘WPS’ button on your router. No need to input any passwords or anything. As Borat would possibly say, “Great success!”. Set the G700 as the renderer in BubbluUPnP (or whatever UPnP controller you prefer), find your library on the network and play your tunes. Of course, you can wire it directly to your network via the LAN socket on the back but sadly that option wasn’t available in the room we set this up in.

SOUND

I’m going to split this bit essentially into three sections as there are three different aspects to the G700: Networked, CD, and SACD playback. For the purposes of this review I’m going to be using the SL-G700 as a standalone unit and using the internal DAC, as I think that is how most people will use it – why spend this kind of money on a Network, CD, and SACD player and then use an external DAC, though, of course, that is an option should you feel the urge by using the optical or coaxial outputs – in fact, I did have a little play with it into our LAB12 dac1.  Pre for the duration is the LAB12 pre1, amps are Merrill Thor and speakers are Celestion SL6s, with cables being Atlas throughout in this system.

NETWORK

As I have said, once you get your head around the instructions, Network set up is pretty straightforward and I had tunes playing really quickly – it will be instantaneous via the wired connection. First up was the excellent Fun Loving Criminals’ 100% Columbian and it’s really a bit of treat with the Technics in place. The presentation is wide and open, detailed, and erring on the side of being ever so slightly on the warmer side of neutral and I find myself listening a bit louder than I normally would in this system. On the track, All For Self the guitar licks and brass that come and go in the mix are projected well out into the room in a very pleasing manner. Layering of instruments is good, if not exceptional when compared to the LAB12 or the LEEMA DACs I have to hand – certainly no slouch though. Even at high volume, the Technics seems sure-footed and in control of everything, though between tracks I’m getting a little pop coming through the speakers  – switching to MConnect as the UPnP controller, and with gapless renderer set to on, cures this popping and so I recommend MConnect with this unit – YMMV.

One point here, and I feel I really do have to make it, most of my Network/Streaming listening is done using the ROON app with the ROON core being on a little NUC permanently connected to the network, but sadly ROON is not an option with the G700. This may seem a minor point, but, having finally embraced ROON, I find I’m missing it a little. Others will find this point completely moot, of course! I hope that future firmware updates will allow for Roon readiness.

Vibert and Simmonds’ Rodulate has a static-like electronic pulse at the start of the track and this comes across very well with the Technics in place, perhaps a little more ‘electronic’ feeling than with the LAB12 DAC and perhaps a little more lively in its presentation overall. The Technics certainly gives a good feeling for the nature of the sounds/instruments used, and whilst the presentation isn’t quite as three-dimensional as the LAB12 or the LEEMA, some of the sounds do leap out into the room at you as they are supposed to. The track Story from the same album has a lovely bass noise and it is presented without nasty artefacts and very deeply, though again I don’t think I’m getting that degree of separation of sounds in the mix I’m used to – but we are splitting hairs here to an extent as it’s certainly nothing to whine about.

Gil Scott-Heron’s When You Are Who You Are is fast and frenetic with lots going on in the mix, but the Technics copes very well with everything, and Scott-Heron’s voice is projected nicely into the room. Norberto’s guitar solo is a delight with plenty of insight into the timbre of the instrument. Dynamically the Technics is excellent and very fast at dealing with the coming and going of instruments. During quieter passages the G700 is absolutely silent!

The SL-G700 is a well made and good looking unit, very much in the traditional HiFi separates mould

For the next bit of this review I’m going to be really boring and play the same album and tracks via the network connection, Red Book CD and finally SACD as I hope this will bring a sense of how the SL-G700 plays different formats whilst keeping a consistent reference point for myself. For the CD and SACD playback I engaged the Pure Disc Playback Mode.

JOURNEY TO THE DARK SIDE

So, on the Network, and via Qobuz, I play Dark Side Of The Moon at 44.1/16 and it really does sound great, I have to say. There is subtlety, dynamics and detail aplenty. Again I don’t think I’m getting that level of separation of instruments I get with the LEEMA LIBRA, but then we are looking at a standalone DAC that costs the best part of three times what Technics are asking for this all singing all dancing Network Player/CD/SACD/DAC. I’m also sensing an ever so slight tizz to the very top-end frequencies, but you do have to be listening hard to hear it at all and have a highly resolving system. The slightly lazy sounding drumming towards the end of Time is really well-timed with the Technics and I am drawn to it very much.

Popping in the Red Book CD, the mechanism is as smooth as butter, and I feel that there is a little more there when compared to the streamed version of the same record by way of detail and dynamics. The heartbeat at the start of the record seems a little more deep and solid in its form, and the separation of instruments is a little more, well, separated, and, dare I say it, there does seem to be a bit more detail, though the overall slightly warm character of the SL-G700 is still there. The 8 note synth sequence also seems to have a smidgen more detail and depth to it – it sounds a bit more ‘organic’, for want of a better word. The presentation isn’t chalk and cheese by any means. There also seems to be a more depth (front to back) and width (side to side) than with the streamed version. Overall I think the CD is portrayed in a more immersive and nuanced way. Put it this way, if I was stuck with just CDs to play, I’d be well chuffed with the SL-G700 as spinner/DAC. At this point it is clear that the CD mechanism used in the G700 is very good indeed and I enquire of Technics if they produce a standalone CD transport using this mechanism – sadly they don’t! I popped, briefly, it has to be said, the Technics into our Lab12 dac1 DAC where I would usually have a little Leema Elements CD player routed to. In this short test/play, I found the image the Technics presented to be a smidge more stable than that of the Leema and a touch wider/deeper.

And so to the SACD. Now, I know you all may be reading this and thinking “this is not the kind of stuff that Stu would usually use in a review”, but the truth of the matter is I’ve never owned a machine that plays SACD and had to buy a disc especially for this review…and it was Dark Side that first caught my eye as something I know inside out. Ok, the low-level rumble on the synth sequence I mentioned above is clearly more pronounced and seems to come into the mix a little earlier (or is audible earlier), and there is a little more feeling of the timbre of the synth and it being an analogue instrument. And detail of the sounds that are usually in the background is a little more prominent too. As the album progresses, that separation of instruments, width and space becomes more evident than with either streaming or CD. The highs on the guitar are also without harshness or brittleness. Now all this could be the mix/mastering of the SACD, I don’t know.

I don’t do a lot of listening to headphones – we live in the middle of nowhere with neighbours out of earshot (good job really)  – but popping the OPPO PM1s on for a bit I’m happy enough with what I hear. I’m sure a person who listens mostly to headphones would go for a dedicated headphone amplifier, but it’s a useful addition on the G700 for those that need it from time to time.

CONCLUSION

I like this machine. I like it a lot. It’s not daft expensive, it sounds very nice, has plenty of detail and connection to the music, but without overloading you with detail to the point of it being a bit much. It certainly errs on the side of a warmer presentation than the LEEMA Libra DAC and is more akin to the excellent LAB12 in this respect. That slight warmth will appeal to a lot of people I think, it certainly did to me.

The transport section if the Technics is clearly very good at what it aims to do and it is a joy to use – as I said, smooth as butter.

It is best to my mind when using CD and SACD, but then the streaming option is very good too via a Wi-Fi connection – sadly a wired connection is just not possible in this system.

The SL-G700 has plenty of features to satisfy all but the most demanding and is a cinch to set up and use. It’s also built like a tank! The remote is well laid out, big enough for those with sausage finger syndrome and pretty logical.

On the negative side, Roon is not catered for and the screen is far too small to be of much use other than when setting the unit up.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: Built like a tank. My only gripe is the display and I’d have like to have had something I could see from across the room

Sound Quality: Detailed, expansive and enveloping, particularly with CD and SACD. That warmth that I talk about is not at the expense of top end extension and bass goes deep at times. Good if not exceptional layering of instruments. I found it did get a bit muddled on very busy music in the lower mids when streaming

Value For Money: It’s not cheap but nor is it daft money either. You are getting a very good sounding machine that does a whole lot very well and is feature rich.  

Pros:

Great build

Lovely and non-fatiguing sound, whilst being detailed and lively

Good soundstage

Dynamic

Streaming, CD and SACD in one box

Onboard headphone amp

Decent enough remote

Fantastic transport

Electronically silent in our review system

Feature rich

Cons:

No Roon

That screen is a bit pointless as it is for me

Not as detailed as our reference DAC

Price: €2499 £2350 $2999

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Smith

Review Equipment: LAB12 Pre 1, Merrill Thor Class D amplfiers, LAB12 gordian power conditioner, Atlas Cables, Celestion SL6S loudspeakers, Solid Steel speaker stands, Hifi Racks supports.

Specifications

Premium High-grade D/A Converter AK4497, and Dual Mono Construction D/A Circuit, Variable Analogue Audio Output
Discrete AMP Module
Battery Driven Clock Generator
High-speed Silent Hybrid Power Supply
Digital Noise Isolation Architecture
Supports Higher Grade Headphone Connection with Integrated Class AA Headphone AMP
Pure Disc Playback Mode for SACD/CD Playback for Greater Sound Purity
High-Res Re-master

High-quality Technics Design

Four-Section Configuration
High-Rigidity Chassis and Aluminium Die-cast Disc Tray – High-Stability SACD Mechanism
7mm Thick Aluminium Plate Used for the Front Panel
Control Port for System Control with SU-G700

Disc Compatibility

Super Audio CD (2 ch area only), CD, CD-R, CD-RW

Disc Format

Super Audio CD, CD-DA

Frequency Response

Super Audio CD: 2 Hz to 50 kHz (-3 dB) / CD: 2Hz to 20 kHz (-3 dB)

Dynamic Range (IHF-A)

Super Audio CD: BALANCED: 118dB (IHF-A) / UNBALANCED: 115dB (IHF-A)
CD: BALANCED: 98dB (IHF-A) / UNBALANCED: 98dB (IHF-A)

Signal to Noise Ratio (IHF-A)

BALANCED: 121 dB (IHF-A) / UNBALANCED: 118 dB (IHF-A)

THD+N

Super Audio CD: 0.0006% (1 kHz, 0 dB) / CD: 0.0015% (1 kHz, 0 dB)

Digital Input Termina

Coaxial Digital x 1, Optical Digital x 1, USB-A x 2

Analogue Output Terminal

BALANCED x 1, UNBALANCED x 1
Support Variable Level Output

Digital output Terminal

Coaxial Digital x 1, Optical Digital x 1

System Port

System Control Input / Output (Φ3.5 mm Jack)

Headphone Output

Yes(Φ6.3 mm, 110 mV, 32 Ω VOL MAX))

USB-A

Support Codec

WAVYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz / 16, 24, 32 bit)

FLACYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz / 16, 24 bit)

DSDYes (2.8 MHz, 5.6 MHz, 11.2MHz)

AIFFYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz / 16, 24, 32 bit)

ALACYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz / 16, 24 bit)

AACYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz / 16-320 kbps)

MP3Yes (32, 44.1, 48 kHz / 16-320 kbps)

Network Playback Support Codec

WAVYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz / 16, 24, 32 bit)

FLACYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz / 16, 24 bit)

DSDYes (2.8 MHz, 5.6 MHz, 11.2 MHz)

AIFFYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz / 16, 24, 32 bit)

ALACYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz / 16, 24 bit)

AACYes (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz / 16-320 kbps)

MP3Yes (32, 44.1, 48 kHz / 16-320 kbps)

Ethernet Interface

LAN (100 Base-TX / 10 Base-T)

Wi-Fi

IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz Band

Bluetooth(Support codec)

Yes (AAC, SBC)

Power Supply

AC 120 V, 60 Hz

Power Consumption

38W

Dimensions (W x H x D)

430 x 98 x 407 mm (16-15/16 x 3-7/8 x 16-1/32 inch)

Weight

Approx. 12.2 kg (Approx. 26.9 lbs.)

Accessories

Remote Control, AC Cord, System Connection Cable, Analogue Audio cable, Owner’s Manual

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