Synergy, Coherence and Versatility
One of the biggest challenges when you want to buy an audio system is to acquire devices that are compatible with each other. As part of this test bed, we received a carefully crafted package from industry experts. We have a pair of speakers from Monitor Audio, the Silver 500 7G and the Roksan Attessa integrated streaming amplifier. These two names have been firmly established in the world of electronics for many years. You will then have understood that this set is aimed at people with a very busy schedule, and therefore little time available to carry out exhaustive research aimed at arranging an audio system, as well as at people looking for an all-in-one set offering compatibility and diversification, and above all, a most pleasant sound.
Roksan, founded in 1985, presented its first product at an audio festival, the Xeres analog turntable, which was a real success. Subsequently, Roksan has developed a great expertise in the spheres of amplification and digital. In 2016, British speaker manufacturer Monitor Audio, founded in 1972 in Teversham, England, acquired Roksan. This partnership opened the way to an enviable complementarity by presenting audio ensembles of great coherence thanks to an invaluable sharing of knowledge.
The first generation of Silver speakers was released in 1998. According to Monitor Audio, they were a great success. According to the manufacturer, throughout the years, this series has been designed with the ultimate goal of offering an excellent balance between superb sound quality, elegant presentation, and a price that is very accessible to all. For the curious, the meaning of the suffix 7G is not trivial. This three-way speaker model is the seventh generation of the Silver series. It has an attractive, modern style and is available in a choice of five finishes, not to mention its many acoustic innovations. Monitor Audio makes no secret of the fact that the aesthetics of this speaker are as important as the electronics that compose it.
Let’s take a look at the acoustic innovations that characterize the Silver 500 7G. Don’t worry, I won’t give you a headache. They are equipped with a 25 mm golden dome C-CAM tweeter with a uniform waveguide. The 8 cm C-CAM midrange driver is equipped with the RST II technology, while the two 20 cm drivers are also designed with RST II membranes. A few definitions are in order. The C-CAM acronym stands for Ceramic – Coated Aluminum/Magnesium.
The Silver 500 7G speakers not only feature two woofers, but also a large internal volume for more powerful and deeper bass. Whenever possible, they should be installed in medium to large rooms. Being very versatile, they can be used for stereo listening as well as in the creation of a system for your home theatre.
Amplifier / Network Player
Roksan, for its part, is not left behind in the research and development of new products. As such, the company has recently introduced a new generation of audio devices under the Attessa name. Designed and developed in the UK, the range consists of an integrated broadcast amplifier, an integrated amplifier, a turntable and a CD transport. In this article, we will focus on the amplifier / network player.
The Attessa amplifier / network player is similar to the integrated amplifier of the same name. However, the offering is enhanced by the addition of a wireless multi-room platform that can play music in up to 64 zones. Of course, as its name suggests, it is a streaming music player or network player. The device offers a world of possibilities that opens up to you with 20 streaming services including TuneIn, Amazon Music, Qobuz, Radio Paradise, Spotify, Tidal, SiriusXM to name a few.
High-resolution broadcasting is available at your fingertips through the integration of MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) technology. The Attessa is also equipped with a Bluetooth controller. Wireless music listening can be controlled either from a smartphone, a tablet, a computer (PC or Mac) or a discman. Support for the SBC and AAC codecs ensures optimal compatibility with any Bluetooth source, while the aptX codec enables high-speed streaming with sources that offer enhanced listening quality. Finally, users of an Apple device (iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac) will enjoy streaming using AirPlay 2 while users of the Android platform will be able to do the same via AirPlay Android to listen to the music content stored on their devices. The Bluetooth range is well within the standards, i.e., 15 m.
Description of the Attessa
The Attessa range keeps pace with the current aesthetic trends in electronics. The slim case is discreet, but still very pleasing to the eye. We are no longer dealing with the previous quasi-military designs such as the Roksan Caspian. On the left front side, there is the luminous power button. In the center, a wheel is available if you prefer to control your device by touch. It is designed to be used for sound level adjustment and source selection. The display of the amplification volume level and source selection is done by an orange LED graphic interface. Finally, the whole thing is completed by a headphone jack on the right. The output stage of the headphones is excellent. Its power is 7.5 V.
Connectivity and Technical Considerations
In the back, it’s a different story and that’s where my favourite playground is. This tour begins on the left where we find the terminals used to connect speakers. They are perfectly adapted to the standards of the audio industry and meet all the usual connection types. They are solid and well made. Don’t worry if your cables are very rigid. The heavy weight of the device will ensure that it will not be destabilized on a shelf. Immediately to the left, we find the analog inputs which consist of a phono input for a vinyl turntable equipped with a magnetic cartridge (MM) as well as two inputs which will be used for any other analog type device. As a bonus, there is access to a preamp output to feed a subwoofer.
For digital inputs, the unit has two optical inputs (up to 24-bit/96 kHz) and two coaxial inputs (up to 24-bit/192 kHz). An input has been provided for the connection of a CD transport. Finally, if you want to use a wired connection to connect the device to the home network, an RJ45 network input is available.
If you opt for the WiFi option, which, by the way, works perfectly, you will find a USB key as an accessory that you plug into the back to establish the link with your modem. Immediately below this, a second USB input is also available. The latter is used to play music saved on a USB stick. Further on, you will notice an input and a trigger output that allow you to turn on or off the different sources of the Attessa range connected to your installation.
The power supply is the responsibility of a powerful 400 VA toroidal transformer. Its skills allow a breathless rendering during vigorous passages, while ensuring a great stability, since it produces a very linear current. In another order of ideas, let us note in passing that the power of the amplification is 80 W under 8 ohms and 130 W under 4 ohms.
The digital-to-analog converter is a Burr Brown compatible with PCM streams of up to 24-bit/96 kHz using the optical inputs, and 24-bit/192 kHz using the coaxial inputs. Most audio formats are supported by the converter. DSD files will only be played through DoP via BluOS. DoP (DSD over PCM) is a method of transmitting DSD audio on devices that do not have DSD drivers as such. This function, which actually converts your DSD files to 24 bits FLAC, is only available through BluOS using your Windows PC or MacOs when using Roksan’s Attessa. This is an option that I did not favour, because anyway the vast majority of DSD files are available in FLAC or WAV format in high definition.
The installation of the components is very simple. As for the speakers, the bases are easily installed. However, you will notice that they will be easier to fix if the bases of the boxes point upwards. This is the preferred method of opening the boxes. You can choose between spikes for carpet or rubber pads for hard floors. Both systems are adjustable. I loved the rubber pads because you can put the speakers on the floor very easily without having to go to the chiropractor. Afterwards, you will be able to move them at your leisure without effort. All types of connections are available, either a simple connection, in bicabling or in bisamplification. The wiring can be equipped with banana plugs, forks or simply stripped.
The Attessa is also relatively easy to install. Upon unpacking, we notice that the device is really strong. This is serious business. Be sure to handle it properly. Also, make sure you have quick and easy access to where you want to drop it off. There are few accessories in the package. We find a remote control at its simplest, a USB key for WiFi and a small extension cord. Broadcasting via BluOS requires the WiFi key to be inserted on the back of the device. The extension cord is not essential unless the unit is located in a cabinet where reception is poor. For the rest, it is a question of connecting your devices and the loudspeakers, and the turn is played.
The Attessa amplifier / network player is a complex device, I must admit, especially when you consider all the technology on board. But don’t worry, because everything has been designed to make your life easier. Essentially, this will be done through two pieces of software available for free on Apple Store or Google Play. Both are essential.
The first is MaestroUnite. This is the main tool for configuring the device. With the help of the latter, you will be able to unify all the elements of your WiFi network. You will also be able to harmonize your Attessa CD transport (if applicable) and your amplifier / network player to make them work as one unit. MaestroUnite even allows you to control features such as input sources, as well as configure the device’s advanced settings such as headphone sensitivity, analog input gain, balance and low standby power, update installation and more. All from a single application. By following the steps described in the Attessa user manual, you should be able to do this without difficulty.
The second application is BluOS, which is basically an operating system for music management software. In addition to installing the application on your smart devices, I strongly suggest that you install it on your desktop or laptop if, of course, you have those tools. The Windows or i versions are more complete and become essential if you want to convert DSD files to FLAC. BluOS is really the neuralgic center for controlling the use of the Attessa. It is one of the best applications of its kind on the market.
BluOS is also a multi-room audio technology tool that creates a link to access and stream all of our music using a phone, tablet or computer. BluOS becomes a wireless tool that uses our home network. The application allows you to play different music pieces simultaneously anywhere in your home. And, not least, BluOS can wirelessly transmit lossless music at up to 24-bit / 192 kHz, with no lag and no loss of sound quality. BluOS also works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. It is possible to use these assistants to control an audio track, to pause or skip a song, and even to say in which room you want to listen to music.
You will have understood that the charm of the Attessa amplifier / network player lies very much in the fact that it allows you to take advantage of broadcasting or streaming services. A host of popular streaming music services and Internet radio applications are integrated directly into BluOS, providing unlimited access to millions of songs. Some of these services are available for a subscription fee.
The Sound Quality Aspect
Beyond all these considerations, the big question remains the same. So what about the sound of this set? The short answer is: very good. I set up the set in my reading room, wanting to share my two passions of music and reading except I got caught up in the game. The music took all the space. The authority of the first notes is surprising, to say the least. Although the specifications of the amplification, without being modest, are in the average, it is necessary to admit that Attessa is strong hearted and enough reserve to make the Silver 500 7G cheerfully.
So, since this was not the first time the devices had been used, I took the liberty of pushing them. Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven in MQA format certainly still resonates at my neighbour’s place (I live in a condo). When the Silver 500s are relatively close to a wall, not to say too close, the low frequencies are really predominant. However, I found that their design is of a high standard, as the cabinets do not vibrate, and I never felt that I was overstepping the limits. If the bass is too predominant, I discovered a little trick. Not everyone has a large listening room, and sometimes you may still want to own speakers the size of the Silver 500s for their sonic advantages. The rear vents can be blocked with foam washers available in the package. It solves the issue at once without altering the quality of the rendering.
The association between Monitor Audio and Roksan has laid the foundation for the creation of a team with great expertise and working in the same direction. The set we present here is the proof. After having placed, ideally according to my criteria, speakers, I appreciated the neutrality of the rendering. I have a particular affection for jazz, classical, French chanson and pop music like Norah Jones. The synergy between the speakers and the integrated is perfect. I may have gotten too old, but it seemed to me that the high frequencies were a bit off, although I remembered that this is often a characteristic of British manufacturers. The midrange and the high midrange are very coherent. The bass is smooth and very realistic. I can promise you long hours of listening without hearing fatigue.
I tested one of the digital inputs by connecting my server. It has its own operating system and it is temperamental, so I was not able to control it via BluOS. However, my goal was to run my favourite pieces that I know inside and out to make a comparison. The Attessa’s converter and Monitor Audio speakers did a flawless job of playing FLAC files, regardless of the sample rate. For example, Slow Down by Keb’ Mo’. I was very pleasantly surprised by the vigour and strength of the resulting sound. It was powerful, clear and with great impact.
The ensemble is also able to offer a smooth rendering and this was the case with the Mendelssohn Ravel Sollima album by Quatuor Saguenay. One can only savour all the details, the softness and the veracity of the sound restitution that this quartet offers. The beautiful musicality of this duo will transport you to a world of discovery of new musical horizons, as broadcast services offering MQA or HD (24 bits) offer great possibilities that you will savour.
In the End
If you were looking for a turnkey duo, you’ve come to the right place, because the complementarity of this set is hard to beat. Designed by two British audio experts, the companies have worked hand in hand to build an audio system that offers perfect synergy, consistency and versatility. Now it’s your turn to you to discover it.
Roksan Attessa Network Player / Amplifier
Price: 3 499 $
Warranty: 5 years, parts and labour
Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G Speakers
Price: 3 799 $
Warranty : 5 years, parts and labour
Distributor: Kevro Int’l Inc., T. : 905.428.2800, https://www.kevro.ca/
Keb’ Mo’, Slow Down
Quatuor Saguenay, Mendelssohn Ravel Sollima