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Audio Affair - A Very Modern Affair (Part 1) - System 1 – One-box wonder

12/11/2013 8:49:35 PM
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Audio Affair has become a potent online dealer, but as we diccover, it hasn’t skimped on the in store side of things

Located in the middle of Birmingham’s splendidly named Custard Factory district, Audio Affair is a UK dealer that began under slightly different circumstances to many of its competitors. Owner Alex Field started out selling vinyl on eBay and began to move into the online retail of audio equipment from there. Alex made the decision that to be effective as an online audio retailer, it made sense to have physical premises. The showroom was opened in 2007 and since has been joined by a sister store selling pro audio and DJ kit as well as a warehouse for online stock. The total staff now stands at 11.

Description: As a dealer with a foot in both camps, some aspects of Audio Affair differ from more conventional dealers, but some are reassuringly similar.

As a dealer with a foot in both camps, some aspects of Audio Affair differ from more conventional dealers, but some are reassuringly similar.

As a dealer with a foot in both camps, some aspects of Audio Affair differ from more conventional dealers, but some are reassuringly similar. The company is hugely involved in social media and building its online presence, but has lavished a great deal of care and attention on its store, which is beautifully finished and now features a number of brands like Naima and Cyrus that are only available via the showroom and are independent of the online business. As such, it’s time to see how this impacts on the Audio Affair sound. Assisted by sales advisor Richard, I sit down to see what the team makes of our standard three-system brief...

System 1 – One-box wonder

The least expensive system of the day is also by some considerable margin the smallest. If you can’t accommodate this slim line trio, it’s time to consider headphones. While it is compact, there is nothing restricted about the specs or performance – this is a system that gets a lot done in a small space.

Description: $5,190.90 Naim Super Uniti

$5,190.90 Naim Super Uniti

Audio Affair began selling Naima equipment last year and it has rapidly become a favorite of the team. The flagship SuperUniti is an impressively specified product at the asking price. It is a 32-bit/192kHz-capable UPnP streamer with internet radio and supporting digital and analogue inputs. These are mated to an 80W internal amplifier that should be able to handle most speakers. Like the rest of the Naima streaming family, the SuperUniti is controlled by the wonderfully slick N-Stream app and Audio Affair has made sure there’s an iPad on hand to make best use of this.

Hey good looking

Partnering the Naima is the smallest floor stander in the Prozac Response range, the D18. This two-way design is almost classically proportioned and – finished in a lovely cherry veneer – is as much a piece of furniture as it is audio equipment. The Prozac has always been more than a pretty face, though. The D18 makes use of a proprietary 6.5in mid bass driver, featuring an acrylic phase plug with a larger magnet assembly than the smaller stand mount versions. This is partnered with a ¾in soft dome tweeter with a ‘honeycomb’ voice coil specific to Prozac. Also extremely important to the Prozac’s overall performance is that they have a side-firing port just above the integral plinth that makes them relatively easy to place near rear walls. It’s clever and usefully compact, but how does it sound?

After a minute or so of playing Ray LA Montagne’s Three More Days, it is abundantly clear that this is a very happy partnership indeed. Naima  and Prozac both produce equipment with a very definite character – it would be wrong to call them colored, but there is a very clear sense of identity to both and when combining products of this nature there is always the danger you’ll wind up with oil and water, rather than a gin and tonic. In this case, though, the combination is a happy blend of the strengths of the two brands.

Description: $3,425.99 Proac D18

$3,425.99 Proac D18

Top gear

The drive and agility of the Naima is readily apparent. There is a deftness to the performance that is completely compelling and somewhat addictive. The Prozac’s keep this agility entirely intact (they are hardly lead-footed themselves) and add a tonal sweetness that allows the performance to completely convince. Vocals are handled with an effortless assurance that many systems at considerably higher price points can struggle to compete with and the overall tonality of the system is a perfect partnership of both detail and refinement.

There is no sense that the system is over civilized either. The more raw and aggressive Harrow down Hill by Thom Yorker keeps the rumbling electronic bass and discordant midrange as raw and urgent as the artist intended, but then lavishes a wonderful richness and weight to Yorker’s vocals and locks them center stage with the supporting instrumentation arranged behind. The relatively sensitive Prozac’s combined with the long-held tradition of Naima equipment to have a power beyond that of what the bald numbers might suggest, also means that this system has extensive headroom for something so comparatively small.

The all-in-one system has generally been considered the convenient option for people lacking the space and capital in a ‘proper’ separates-based hi-fi. This system is a very elegant riposte to this way of thinking. The performance isn’t simply comparable to separates at the price, but is instead right up at the top of the pile. When you consider the excellent feature set, lovely build and handsome appearance, you have a system that wins all the arguments.

 
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