Blue-sky scenario? For the spec sheet on a streaming amplifier coming to market in 2020, the Golden Triangle for this end-user is as follows: 1) Roon, 2) Spotify Connect and 3) Google Chromecast Built-in. Roon for its magazine-like interface and tight Tidal/Qobuz integration; Spotify Connect for its larger library and UI. But why insist on Google’s Chromecast to spin the third wheel when it fails to meet the basic requirement of gapless playback?
Like Apple AirPlay/2 and Bluetooth, Chromecast brings streaming services like Soundcloud into the picture. That’s invaluable for anyone wanting to stream, through their main rig, electronic music or hip-hop unavailable elsewhere. Chromecast’s gapped playback is a non-issue for Soundcloud’s DJ mixes and podcast episodes.
Furthermore, unlike AirPlay/2 and Bluetooth, Google’s streaming protocol doesn’t pull content via the host smartphone but directly for the cloud. We endure none of AirPlay/2’s heavier battery drain nor the lossy compression lottery of Bluetooth.
That Naim implements the Golden Triangle of Roon, Spotify Connect and Chromecast Built-in in their streaming platform – and with automatic input switching – is one reason I keep coming back to their Uniti Atom streaming amplifier (review here), its diminutive dimensions adding a crucial layer of Kallax-Fi to the scene.
We first caught Naim’s refreshed and expanded Uniti series at RMAF 2016. In the intervening four years, other manufacturers have begun to pick up on what Naim have been putting down. Linn with their Selekt DSM and NAD with the M10. And whilst these two streaming amplifiers meet the Kallax-Fi brief head-on and both offer room-accommodating DSP power, they only give us two-thirds of our ‘Golden Triangle’. Google’s Chromecast Built-in is MIA. Not a criticism but an observation.
Fuelling today’s train of thought is the freshly-minted TDAI-1120 from Lyngdorf: a Kallax-Fi-compliant integrated amplifier offering 60wpc (into 8 Ohms) of loudspeaker drive, augmented by Peter Lyngdorf’s patented RoomPerfect™ room-correction technology and wholly different to the Dirac Live system optioned by NAD for their M10.
On digital inputs, we note the TDAI-1120’s rear-panel TOSLINK, coaxial and HDMI ARC sockets. In the software domain, a wide-range of streaming support: Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, networked and USB-direct UPnP; Roon Ready; Spotify Connect; Google Chromecast Built-in. Our ‘Golden Triangle’ is present and correct.
Shipping on the TDAI-1120 begins in April/May with an RRP of €1999.
Similarly, introduced at Munich High-End 2019, Arcam’s SA30 is an integrated amplifier with room correction (powered by Dirac Live). It supports Apple AirPlay and UPnP and satisfies our Golden Triangle requirements of Roon, Spotify and Google Chromecast Built-in.
However, the Arcam unit is augmented by a wholly different feature set. Its 43cm full-width chassis precludes Kallax shelf positioning but Arcam’s Class G amplifier technology gives us, on paper at least, greater loudspeaker drive than the Lyngdorf (120wpc into 8 Ohms), adds MQA support and five analogue inputs, one of which doubles as an MM/MC phono input for direct turntable connection. Mobile-friendly headphone enthusiasts can listen via a front-panel 3.5mm socket. Price? €2399.
Room correcting software is a potent tool for anyone unable or unwilling to hang acoustic panels or place bass traps in their listening space; such DSP can have a pronounced effect on overall sound quality and the resulting listening experience. And yet for the Music-First Audiophile, it might not be as crucial as finding Google Chromecast Built-in sitting alongside Spotify Connect and Roon Readiness inside our streaming amplifier. With the Naim Uniti box, we find ourselves well inside the Golden Triangle but strike out on room correction. With the Lyngdorf and the Arcam, we endure no such feature set compromise.