Friday 15 December 2017

Ask Adrian: Our tech expert Adrian Weckler addresses your trickiest technology problems

Sony SRS-ZR7 speakers
Sony SRS-ZR7 speakers
iPhone 7 Red
Fujifilm GFX 50S
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Q: Having downsized my house, I no longer have room for my 20-year-old hi-fi. I am looking at two Sony SRS-ZR7 'high resolution' Bluetooth speakers. The source music will be from Spotify. Will this provide stereo similar to the old systems?

Any other speaker recommendations would also be greatly appreciated.

Richard Clarke

A That speaker system will give you stereo audio by splitting the stream, yes. But it may not match what you're used to.

What I mean is that if you're switching from your old stereo because you have less physical space, I'm guessing it was a more traditional hi-fi set-up with separate amplifiers, CD player and speakers. If so, you will have been used to pretty excellent audio. For all their convenience and high-tech wireless tricks, modern all-in-one speakers often don't match the audio prowess of older, bigger hi-fi units. This is partially a matter of physics: your separate, cabled speakers have more physical space for tools to enhance the audio waves.

That said, if you absolutely need to scale down for space, Sony's ZR7 model (below) is a fairly decent choice. Like most Sony speakers now, they're designed to cater for 'high-resolution' audio, which is close to CD quality. You won't quite get the full benefit of this from Spotify, which is limited to a high(ish) audio streaming standard of 320kbs. (Rival service Tidal supports higher streaming quality, but also costs twice the price at €20 per month). There are other speakers I'd also look at. Sonos is an excellent system that also gives you stereo audio when you buy a pair of them. The brand's Play 1 speakers (€219 each) are among the most popular speakers around at present.

However, bear in mind that Sonos speakers are primarily designed to work through your home Wi-Fi. Once set up, they're great. But it does take a bit of tinkering. And, in my experience, Wi-Fi is a lot trickier to conquer out of the box than almost any other type of music connection. Bose is another good choice and within touching range of the Sony speakers, pricewise. It has a number of SoundLink options that are worth checking out.

Panasonic and Samsung also both have good speakers for under €300, too, that can be paired to create stereo sound.

The best wireless speaker I have tried in recent times is Nyne's Rock (around €375) and Rebel (around €300). However, these are standalone speakers rather than ones with split audio for stereo.

Lastly, I'd try one more thing before handing over your cash for a new digital speaker. Again, this is on the off-chance that you can actually keep your existing speakers and amp. Connect a Spotify-playing source (your phone will do, or a tablet) into your existing amp's auxiliary port and check the audio quality. This is what I do in one room at home when I want to really turn the music up: the big 20-year-old speakers I have still beat the small digital ones.

But if not, any of the Sony, Sonos or Bose will give you decent audio quality.

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