Thursday, 14 August 2014

Brainwavz R3 Revised Edition Review

Brainwavz R3 Revised Edition Review

Thanks to mp4nation for the sample

First Impressions: I will assume all reading this have at least glanced at my review of the original version.  That version I personally greatly loved its aural talents but it had one stupendously large flaw.  It had the single worst memory wire built in I have ever had to deal with.  Every single review I know of the R3, like mine, hated that wire and wished it removed.  Brainwavz it seems have sort of got the message and have produced version two with lacks that horrible 12 foot long coat hanger wire.  I say sort of because it seems Brainwavz have lost the wire but still attached a rubbery ear guide, while it’s a vast improvement I have to ask.  For gods sake Brainwavz what exactly was the problem with just using the cable, add a removable guide if you absolutely feel one is needed!!!  So annoyed its not even funny.

Otherwise, box, yadda yadda yadda, tips, case, whatever.  Sound wise, sounds nice.  Is it me or is it a bit less trebly? Can you tell I'm still annoyed?

Oh and this review will be fairly short for me.  Aurally it's basically identical to the original.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-60, 1G Ipod Shuffle.

Lows:  Well they are still adorably lovely to behold.  Smooth and genteel and effortless and just so silky.  While I realise that many won't love the bass here, it lacks real vigour and any semblance of aggression but I like it very much.  For the like of soft jazz, melancholic ballads and otherwise beautiful, sweeping music it works.  God damn it works.  Its wonderfully polite and restrained while still producing more or less whatever quantity you ask of it.  It’s no party animal and that suits my ears just fine.

Mids:  Just gorgeous. Serene and sweeping and smooth and soft and just achingly eloquent.  It is the aural embodiment of Bach’s choral works.  It has an overall middy flavour to things but given how beautiful they are that is perfectly fine by me.  Once more aggressiveness is not where the R3’s heart lies. Such air and finesse!!!

Highs:  Just like the other two aspects, smooth, serene, delicate etc etc.  Detail levels are wonderfully good and combined with an exceedingly delicate nature.  I know that there are some who will hate this, they want detail upfront and hurled at you.  The R3 is so subtle and refined up top that if you don’t look for things you may not notice them.  However, I'm rather treble sensitive and this faintly delicate nature suits me exceedingly well.  I like very much.

Soundstage:  Ill defined but with a sweeping sense of distance and scale.  Things are just sort of there without having come from anywhere in particular.   Think a speaker set up outside, there is no sense of enclosure here.  Instrument separation is a bit ill-defined too.  Stuff is just sort of there without being anywhere in particular.

Fit:  Much better than you would think to look at them.  The ear guide rubbery thing is still a hindrance but if you rotate the buds before insertion it's all good.

Comfort:  Really good actually.  They are huge but it works.  Conditionally in that you must wear them up, which I would do anyway.

Microphonics:  Yey!  With no gigantic memory wire it's largely cured as a problem, thank god.

Amped/Unamped:  Feed it all the power you can.  I mean it'll work out of your phone but it won't do the R3 justice.  It's not particularly about a warm or cooler power source it just wants there to be oodles of power available to it.  You should do so, it is quite glorious if you do.

Isolation:  Petty reasonable.  Its circa the norm for new dynamics.  Fine for normal day to day stuff.  Not so much for an hour long Tube commute every morning.  As always, sufficient to make you a road stain if you don’t look where you're going.

Build Quality.  Very nice.  It’s a great big metal blob and the cable looks sufficient to garrotte someone.

Accessories:  Bunch of tips and a rather nice case.  That this time is actually usable as it the lack of memory wire means it can fit inside.

Value:  I see it at US$130 or £75.79.  I'd buy it.  Sure there is plenty of also great stuff out there for the same sort of money so I can't say this is “better” value than the MA750 or RE-400 but its better suited to my ears than they are.  It's certainly not for everyone, tonally its too sedate for many but I love it.  With it now having gotten rid of that horrific memory wire it would be the IEM that would get my money if I had £80 to spend.

Conclusion:  The original R3 I loved acoustically but it was really hard to get past that memory wire it had.  It was like being presented with a beautiful meal and a passing bird has crapped on it.  It was such horrible thing it just ruined the whole deal and while I love the sound it made the old R3 unliveable with.  With that epic impediment out of the way it's now really easy for me to love the R3.

Aurally the R3 is like a beautiful and delicate symphony for your ears, it's just so exquisite.  Like a Straus waltz, playfully and serenely flowing and dancing over your ears or a delicate silk scarf fluttering in the breeze.  For me and my rather sedate tendencies it works achingly well.  If you want something filled with rambunctious power and aggression, the R3 is soooooooo not it.  So there is no way it can be thought of as a generalist, it’s not something I would think of as being a sure bet for others as say the GR07 can.  The R3 has a very specific target audience and I happen to fall in it.

In essence, the R3 is the summation of all that is lovely, smooth and transcendentally delicately beautiful.  Its not a sound for everyone or every piece of music but I love it. Love it, love it, love it!!!

Brainwavz R3 Revised Edition Quick Review

Brainwavz R3 Revised Edition Quick Review

Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.

Brief:  Brainwavz do an epically scaled dual dynamic, now without that horrid memory wire.

Price:  £77 or US$130 or €97

Specification:  Transducers/Drivers: Dual Dynamic, 10mm, Crossover: Passive, Rated Impedance: 32ohms, Sensitivity: 95dB at 1mW, Frequency range: 20Hz ~ 20KHz,   Maximum input power:  2mW, Cable length: 1.4m, Y cord, OFC Copper, professional grade memory cable., Plug: 3.5mm gold plated, 45 degree., 24 month warranty.

Accessories:  1 x Comply foam T-series tip 6 x Silicone tips 1 x Bi-Flage tip 1 x Tri-Flange tip 1 x 6.3mm to 3.5mm audio adapter 1 x Airplane adapter 1 x Earphone carrying case 1 x Instruction manual

Build Quality:  Metal and fairly hefty.  The cable too looks very substantial.

Isolation:  Fairly reasonable.  Enough to get you killed or for day to day use, but you know, it’s still a dynamic so not flight to New Zealand levels of isolation.

Comfort/Fit:  They look like monsters but seem to actually fit everyone rather well.  This one hasn't that horrid memory wire so getting a fit is much better but...... it still has a rubbery ear guide thing I could have done without.  On the whole it’s tolerable.  Comfort was absolutely fine.

Aesthetics:  These things look huge, and frankly, they look weird.  Not bad, just weird.

Sound:  Huuuuuuuggggggeeeeeeeeeeee. These have such a soft, delicate, airy wondrous quality to them.  The sound stage is vast; the distance these convey is just superb and remind me of the RE-252 and its weird endless sense of distance.  These do open and delicate just utterly superbly.  This sort of sound really, really is one I found grew on me.  At first it’s so incredibly unassuming.  It’s near flavourless, unexciting, mild and a tad boring.  Then you grow accustomed to its just playing what’s there, mellowing any abrasiveness and letting the most sweet and delicate details come into view.  The bass is a tad inflated, and its depth isn’t stellar but it’s so composed and refined.  The highs are for this price the most refined and delicately beautiful live heard in a long, long time. (Since the RE-0 was cut to US$100)   Then the mids, all that openness and air, the space, it’s all so very detailed and so very, very subtle about everything.  I find myself growing to adore the mids here. I very, VERY much like it.

The flip side of all this is, its not a thrill machine.  The bass isn’t thumping, the highs aren’t crispy, nor do they hurl detail at you.  The mid’s don’t leap out and scream party.  Horses for courses and all that.

Value:  If you like this sound style, superb.  It’s not an “all-rounder” though so some won’t love it the way I do.  Also there is lots of other great stuff at this price bracket.  However it is the one that would get my money, I like it exceedingly much.

Pro’s:   Oh it’s so sumptuously and delicately beautiful. Soundstage and scale.

Con’s:  If you want a V shaped party beast this is not it. 

Brainwavz S5 Review

Brainwavz S5 Review

Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.

First Impressions:  What is with Brainwavz naming, is there some pattern to it I am just not getting?  Box is looking rather nice, even has a flappy lid held closed with a magnet, fancy.  Whats also fancy is the case.  Not only does the black and red affair look nice its also rather functional too.  Additionally there is a bunch of bits, lots of tips in there, hmm and I see a flat cable.  I don’t love flat cables.  What I do like is the shape of the buds, I'd wager they will be most comfortable.

First quick listen and instantly “all of da basss!!!!!!”  its no secret where the S5 has been tuned to favour.   Admittedly this could have something to do with fact I’ve been listening to their sibling previously.  Still I’m definitely thinking there is much bass here.  Off to go burn in time.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-601, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.

Lows:  In terms of balance the bass is where these dominate.  The bass is the focal aspect.  What it lacks in linearity it makes up for in the form a big ass hump of bass.  Its great big ass bass that likes to vigorously throw itself around.  It's pretty taught though and its bass extension is pretty nice too.  It comes across to ear as rather bold and well rounded.  In terms of quantity, its not the most I've ever heard but it's certainly very elevated and combined with its solidity and eagerness to punch I must confess I found its bombastic nature a little tiring on my ears.  Presently they feel a little tender and worn out.  Now I now that many out there just love tons and tons of bass and wouldn’t have the slightest issue with it but, well, I did.  Its big and potent and I have delicate little ears. 

I reiterate, the quality is fair and its tonality is very nice.  It’s the relative quantity that isn’t working for me.

Mids:  Meh.  They are really rather recessed, while they offer a nice slight echo to the vocal ranges the mids are just too overshadowed.  I like mids, I like very vocal centric music and I found these rather wanting quantitatively.  Qualitatively too I wasn’t loving them either.  Vocals here have a distance and yet a slight thickness to them that may work with typical chart based pop but…..for many things I found them feeling like they were a little bit of an afterthought.  Clarity was reasonable but again the recessed nature serves to somewhat obscure detail.  Shockingly in much charty pop this is often a good thing as one or two artists haven’t the greatest vocal talents, they are often mastered by the half deaf and thus have been dynamically compressed to hell. 

Tonally they have a hint of over warmth and thickness that is reasonably pleasant to hear but added to the distance and recessed nature it works a little against things in terms of detail retrieval.  There is detail in there but it's not quite so readily presented to the listener as with some other IEM’s.

Highs:  The sadly there is a spike in the mid/highs range that I found somewhat hard on my ear.  It somewhat dominated the upper range for me and served to overshadow both the mid range and the more extended highs.  Upping the volume dial I found my ears grew tired increasingly quickly.  The rest of the high end is rather sedate and rolled off.  A signature that I'd normally classify as forgiving and gentle on the ear but the lower treble spike made them forgiving but not so much with the gentle.  Detail levels are so so.

Soundstage:  As it’s a dynamic it's pretty reasonably scaled.  Instrument separation is likewise fine.

Fit:  For my own little ears the fit was exceedingly good.  The angle the tips aim inward at worked beautifully for my good self.  Even the flat cable didn’t get in my way when going over the ear.  Very good.

Comfort:  As with the fit the comfort was quite exemplary.

Microphonics:  I did get a little but nothing terrible.  Using the chin slider basically eliminated it.

Amped/Unamped:  It needs no amping and I can't really say benefited from having more power thrown at them either.  I might actually even go so far as to say I preferred them out of my phones as the bass power diminished somewhat.

Isolation:  Rather good for a big dynamic.  The sort of thing I'd be quite happy using out and about.  As always, not really what I'd want for long flights or daily Tube commutes.  Also my ever present warning that it more than easily enough to get you run over if you don’t look where you're going.

Build Quality.  Rather nice.  I must say though I'm a bit disappointed that they are painted black given they are actually made of aluminium.  The cable feels and looks rather sturdy and the Y splitter is pretty chunky.  Oh and you get a 2 year warranty.

Accessories:  You get a good bunch of tips, 9 pairs I think.  A 6.25 to 3.5mm adapter and lastly you get a rather nice black and red Brainwavz case.  I very much like the little case.

Value:  Presently priced at US$99.50 or £59.17.  This puts them in a spectacularly competitive environment. The fact is there just isn’t any aural aspect I can see someone wanting and me thinking “oooh the S5, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.”  It's not that it’s a terrible option but it doesn’t shine anywhere in particular and for the money the competition is savagely fierce.

Conclusion:  I have spent a goodly long while with the S5.  Others seem to have liked it more than I, I did see it said that they like a good long burn in so I gave them a few hundred hours just to be sure.  Still I found, as you may have guessed, I just could not feel the love for the S5.  Aside from their fit just about everything was how I wouldn’t make an IEM for me.  I don’t like flat cables.  I don’t like loads of bass.  I don’t like far, far away mids and then that spike in the lower treble was icing on the cake.  It just entirely rubbed me up the wrong way.

To give the S5 its due, it's not terrible or a bad product. It just is entirely not aimed at me.  Its bass is big and expansive, oh and that flat cable I'll grant, is tangle free. Which I know to many are highly positive attributes, I'm pretty sure my sister would love these and I have no doubts that many Beats buyers would lap these up like a cat that’s got the cream.

Never the less I am the one writing this and I'm very sorry Brainwavz but the S5 just really wasn’t my cup of tea at all, sorry.

Brainwavz S5 Quick Review

Brainwavz S5 Quick Review

Thanks to mp4nation for the sample.

Brief:  Where the only thing flat about them is the cable.

Price:  US$100 or £60 at today’s exchange rates.

Specification:  Transducers/Drivers: Dynamic, 10mm, Rated Impedance: 16ohms Closed, Dynamic, Sensitivity: 110dB at 1mW, Frequency range: 18Hz ~ 24kHz, Distortion: <= 0.3% @ 110dB, Channel balance: =< 1dB (at 1000Hz), Rated input power: 20mW, Maximum input power: 40mW, Plug: 3.5 mm 45-degree gold plated, Cable length: 1.3 meters Y cord (CU/Ag) PUR, 1 year warranty, Dimensions (Packaging): 160 x 135 x 38mm, Net Weight: 10g, Gross Weight: 140g

Accessories:  1 x ComplyT-400 medium foam tips, 6 x Pair silicone tips (S/M/L), 1 x Bi-Flange silicone tips, 1 x Tri-Flange silicone tips, 1 x 6.3mm audio adapter, 1 x Hard carrying case, 1 x Instruction manual & Warranty card

Build Quality:  It looks and feels most sturdy.  The buds are aluminium so short of stamping on them should stand significant abuse.

Isolation:  Quite good.  By dynamic standards it’s one of the better so should suffice for most use cases and normal day to day activities.  Not really flight to New Zeeland stuff but would do dandy for short haul flights.  Naturally easily enough to make you a road stain of you don’t look where you’re going.

Comfort/Fit:  Exceedingly good.  The angle they sit at is just perfect for my ears and even the flat cable didn’t get in my way.  Full marks.

Aesthetics:  Visually they are fine, a bit nondescript but..... mostly I’m miffed they are painted.  I would have much rather had lovely bare aluminium.  Oh well.

Sound:  Well I am sorry to say but they just weren’t for me.  The bass is big, roundly rambunctious and moved enough air to get rather tiring to my delicate little ears.  The bass isn’t bad per say but it’s just too voluminous and eager to waggle its big fat ass all over the place.  My ears are sensitive and pressure sensitive (I have crap sinuses and its hayfever season.)   With all that air movement it got really tiring and then the lower range treble spike kept leaping out and the recessed mids.  It was hiding the bits I wanted and spiking just where I didn’t.  I’m sure my sister would love its big, jiggley, fat lower end and the excitable upper but it was killing me.  It’s a wants to hurl itself about and force you to party whether you do do or not and its distant yet thickened mids wasn’t for me.

Value:  Its sturdy, comfortable fitting and has heaps of thick, heavy bass.  I can see why some would certainly want it.

Pro’s:   Weighty and potently heavy bass.  Solid construction.

Con’s:  Bass dominates and mids lack any air or presence.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Yamaha MCR-B142 Review

Yamaha MCR-B142 Review

Thanks to Yamaha UK for the sample.

First Impressions: Oooooh look at that red!  Now I readily confess if this had been bought with my own money I would have been much more dull and gone for the charcoal grey with black bits version but….. since it’s a loaner I thought be wild and go for that bright red.  I like it but subtle it is not.  The range of colours it comes in is extensive, oddly not a blue.  I asked about this and apparently in its previous incarnations blue wasn’t a big seller.  Hey, if you want orange or brown or pink that’s up to you.  Is it me or are the speakers just weird being that shape?  They seem so deep it strikes me as at odds with their tiny front facing dimensions.  Oh and they are ported, for some reason I didn’t think they would be.  Isn’t that going to give an awful lot of bass reinforcement if you put these on a shelf or backing up to a wall?

Firing the little thingy up and having pulled out an actual real CD for the occasion, the first thing I note is the bass.  Oh my word someone has tuned it for a prolific bass output.  I don’t normally love the use of an EQ but I can see it happening here. Oh dear lord I hope no one actually puts one of these in a book case.  My god where is all the bass coming from!!!  I can already see the mids are going to be where this thing shines aurally. 

Setup:  predominantly FiiO E7/E9 combo to aux in on the MCR-B142 for computer playback.  Internal CD player use briefly and of course phone over Bluetooth to the unit.

So, where to start;  lets go with the inputs shall we. 

Inputs:  The MCR-B142 has quite a few input methods, on top it’s got an old style Apple connector, a USB socket, a built in CD drive, DAB radio, an auxiliary in and last of all Bluetooth.  The B in its name is the giveaway, this is the Bluetooth model, there is a MCR-042 that does not.  So with the Apple connector, I didn’t use it, why?  Well it didn’t work with my 5G Ipods.  The spec sheet does say which it will work with but it’s largely iOS devices which I do not use, still many do so I can see the appeal.  Particularly for those with an old Iphone that serves no other useful purpose. 

For me the stand out connection of interest was the Bluetooth one.  While I used the aux input more (if I’m sat in front of the computer it may as well do the audio for it) the Bluetooth connection even comes with its own little app. It didn’t come right up a with a search for Yamaha in the play store so here’s a link
Why it is called “DTA Controller” I have not a clue.  The app even works when you’re not playing back over Bluetooth.  You can change the volume and EQ settings.  Bluetooth use worked extremely well every single time.  Paired up with my google music account on my old N4 gave me access to all my music there and basically made me stop touching the CD drive. 

Next up was the Aux input.  It’s a 3.5mm jack so you could hook up whatever you like but I picked the output form the E9.  You could use any 3.5 to 3.5mm cable to attach any hp out socket though. 

Then there is the USB.  So you can play stuff from a USB drive, well I couldn’t.  In fairness I did not persevere with it as surely the point is to slap in a drive and have it play.  I suspect it’s because the music was in folders but there was no way in real world use any one would be making a compilation just to play back on it.  I rather viewed it as a bonus feature but one I can’t see being used much.

The radio can do FM and both DAB and DAB+ which is nice.  Not that we in the UK will ever see DAB+.  DAB uses MP2 and is usually broadcast at 128k so basically its rubbish.  One of its issues is coverage and I note that the areal is a standard coaxial so you can hook up a connection from your main external TV areal. 

Lows:  Let’s get it out of the way.  I don’t like the bass on this.   That 10dB variance is clearly is the low end.  The dimensions of the speakers are tiny as speakers go and that full range driver has to work hard to do lows.  The enclosures therefore have been tweaked to enhance that bass output as much as possible.  I get it, I get that typical consumers demoing in a big open plan electronics store having prolific bass gets you sales.  I really honestly do get that.  However I can’t help but feel that Yamaha has made a bit of a Faustian bargain.  You want to sell your soul for more bass, well you got it.  You have got an ungodly amount of bass that is super humpy.  I can’t say how annoying this became and I was forced to fire up the EQ.  The bass is currently at 0.  It has on occasion sat at -5dB though.  In addition due to boundary reinforcement I was forced to move the speaker off the desk where I had wanted to use them and ended up on top of my normal (AE Radiance 1) speakers to give them a little air.  God help anyone who actually puts these into a book case.

Now that I’ve moaned I can talk about what they do right.  Once you make sure they have no boundary’s to reinforce it its actually not terrible.  It’s got a good clean punch to it and is of a pretty good quality given the drivers miniscule dimensions.  While it may be humpy there really isn’t too much flab or softness to it.  When you hurl some bouncy bass its way it really wants to jump up and show off what it can do.  Its agility is very pleasing.  For those who love poppy bouncy bass will likely appreciate its tendency to be rip roaring.

Mids:  Now these use a single full range 4.5 inch driver.  Have a wild guess what frequency range is really where they do best?  Yes it is indeed the mids.  The quantity I felt was somewhat lacking in comparison so I ended up tweaking up the mids to +5dB.  The mids are where this driver shines so why hide it Yamaha?  Let it sing forth and slap it right up there at the front.  Let vocals bellow forth and fill the room.  It’s no secret that my musical tastes err towards very vocal centric stuff with a bit of an emphasis on girlies.  The likes of Tori Amos, Regina Specktor, Beverly Craven, Des’ree etc etc are the sort of thing I find I end up playing over and over.  Vocals are excellently reproduced here, smooth and lush and so effortlessly fluid.  As you EQ the levels up it begin to tend towards the upper vocals which may make richer male vocals sound a little on the light.  They lose a bit of depth and richness.  Still it’s a very slight price to pay.  Vocals are just so lovely and melodic it can be a bit of a struggle to stop yourself from starting to sing along.

Strings are almost as nice.  They have a lovely organicness to them and so long as you steer away from the double bass.  Cellos and violins are both quite glorious for such a dinky little box of music.  Sure I could say that the lack of an actual tweeter gets noticeable and the fullest sense of air and delicacy is somewhat lost but it would feel petty to do so.  The strings love to ooze and flow, to soar and fall and just abound with magnificence.  That such a tiny little thing can make such a gloriously symphonic noise!  Slap on Elgar’s cello concerto in E minor and you’ll instantly forget that its coming from something you can use as an alarm clock.  I can truly see that as being the most glorious way to be woken in the morning.  Elgar abounding forth at volume would be quite the way to start your day.  It does a seriously nice cello, Jacqueline du Pre would, I am sure, approve.

N.B.  If this product was to have a theme song it would be Israel Kamakawiwo'ole’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” this product was truly made for that song.  Its all mids and just transcendent.

Highs:  The driver is somewhat huge to act a tweeter but it does a fairly respectable job.  It’s got a touch of bite to it, just enough to give a little edge to metallic impacts.  On the whole it swiftly softens and ever so gently rolls away.  It’s impressive how nice it is for a big driver which is ill suited to highs.  It isn’t something I personally would want to see elevated as when you do so it begins to show its limitations.  When you hurl fast, abundant and aggressive treble at it, it slowly starts to take on a more abrasive twinge.  It takes on a greater prominence to the ear too and I suspect we have that vast variance in the frequency response is hiding a little spike in here.  There clearly is a treble spike though I can’t quite pinpoint it.  It wasn’t sufficient to make me dial down the treble but I did think about it on occasion.

Detail wise it’s fairly impressive.  It’s particularly evident when you put on some well recorded and well mastered stuff.  So called “audiophile” recordings, where you have a very clean and minimalistic recording.  Susan Wong’s “Umbrella” is a quietly beautiful track, the faintly delicate cymbals in the background are well reproduced.  They are what this driver does best, faint metallic impact and a gentle decay.  It is most pleasant on the ear.  More vigorous treble though does begin to blend into a general shimmer, losing detail and accuracy but I don’t mind.  Better to go vague than to go broken up and brittle. 

Still, I find myself impressed by the detail retrieval for such a great big driver.

Soundstage:  Acoustically it depends what you do with speakers.  The unit is clearly built with the idea in mind you will put the speakers right next to the amp unit.  A two second glance at comparable offerings from Denon or Onkyo no one else offers speakers of this shape.  They become quite directional at close range. And if you pair that with putting them right up next to the head unit it makes for a rather small stage.  They really open up if you can get them up off a surface and several feet apart but……. No one is ever going to put these on stands.  I’d also wager practically no one is going to separate them either and that’s a real shame.  Still that is the buyer’s call, if you want, you have the option to separate them, I would highly recommend doing so.  You see if you do, when you crank the volume dial these do a rather convincing job of sounding very much bigger than they are.  Just so long as you don’t stand too close.

Dynamics:  Very impressive.  In the case of the bass overly impressive, to the point of annoying.  I realise I’m a boring old fart and da yoof market wants thumping bombastic bass.  The bass with that gigantic hump can be highly over dynamic.  A certain song might come on and BOOM its bass matches the big bass hump and it punches you squarely in the side of the head.  I know many will like that, it will no doubt play well in a big open plan electronics shops but I found it irritating.  The mids shared its dynamic ability but without the annoying hump.  Vocals and strings could soar and plummet with glorious vigour.  If you want something dinky that will do the 1812 justice this could well be it.  Orchestral stuff excels here for something so small to sound so magnificent.

Volume:  Much like the prolific dynamic range power was easily on hand to go neighbour upsettingly loud.  Unless you have a gigantic room or aircraft hangar to fill this little do da will have no trouble doing so.  I’m not sure what would happen to the bass if you really hike the dial but I’m not sure it’s an issue.

Power:  The spec’s say 15W + 15W.  I can’t see anywhere is specifies this is RMS but I presume it is.  It can get loud, easily loud enough to upset your neighbours, particularly with its bass output.  What is troubling to read is the spec sheets listing about power output.  That power rating comes on a 6 ohm load at 1kHz and 10% THD.  Yes that’s not typo, 10% TDH.  Additionally the speaker response range is listed as 50Hz to 20kHz (-10dB) and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that with a 4.5 inch cone where the variances are going to be found.

Aesthetics:  There is no two ways about it, it’s pretty.  I’m sure its visual impact is enhanced by the vibrant red but it works.  The fact it comes in 10 colours means you should get whatever suits you, but that dark grey one in pics looks great.  One small downer though, when the speakers were up close to the central unit they were not perfectly the same height.  It was a tiny difference so you may want to have a slight gap between them.

Build:  The main unit is nicely put together.  It’s all metal as are the red bits of the speakers.  The remote seems alright too.  My only unhappiness is that the power cable isn’t detachable.  Overall it certainly gives the impression of being a quality object.

Headphone amp:  I can’t imagine it will ever get used in the wild but…. It has a headphone socket.  It sounds okay.  It’s a bit quiet and rather laid back.  Its actually not bad if so much more flat than the speaker output.  The bass particularly felt if anything a bit lacking.

Alarm Clock:  So, it can be used as an alarm clock.  No way you’re sticking this on your bedside table though as it is rather sizeable to be used as such.  Of course you could use it as a bedroom system / alarm and have it not next to the bed.  I like the “InteliAlarm” feature on the app.  You can set custom alarms for every day and pic whatever source or a beep.  I can see worse ways to wake than having Elgar blasted out at you.  Your neighbours may not feel similarly.

Controls:  Naturally you have buttons and a volume dial on the front.  You also have the standard IR remote control.  Everything for the last 30 years has these but what this has that is a little different in the Bluetooth control.  Even if you’re not playing music back from your phone you can still use the app to control things.  Yes even the CD playback.  This is pretty handy feature as remotes are forever misplaced but you always (mostly always) know where you phone is.  However the real star usage is when you’re using Bluetooth as the source.  The melding of control and input means you can use Google Music, or Spotify or Pandora or anything else.  Doing so you not only have control over your music, all of your music but ALL OF THE MUSIC.  I assume anything that your Bluetooth device can play works as it just captures the audio output.  This literally means all music it essentially at your fingertips and can be played at the slightest whim.  This I rather like and I’m sure you would to.

Value:  A quick google and it seems to sit around £280 but there is random variation, some rather higher some rather cheaper if you’re willing to forgo colour choice.  In Americaland it seems to sit about US$350.  As alarm clocks go that a lot.  As little stereos go it’s quite reasonable.  I should also note that there is a non Bluetooth version, the MCR-042 that is quite a bit cheaper, like £100 cheaper.  The kicker is you really want the Bluetooth connection, it and the diminutive size is why you buy this product so you have to get the 142.  If it was my £300 I would have a struggle buying it with those speakers, I’d want proper shaped ones with a tweeter and better sized mid/woofer and I’d forego its prettiness and dinky dimensions.  However this is lovely to look at and for some you can’t really put a price on sounding good and having a high WAF.

Conclusion:  I like the little yammy.  I don’t love it, I prioritise audio quality above all else and it trades some to make those speakers the size and shape they are.  The obligatory “however” is that I am the sort of person that has half my desk taken up by full sized stand mount speakers.  So for me, stuff size concerns, stuff the visuals and stuff any WAF.  If you don’t know what WAF is, it’s the Wife Acceptance Factor.  In audio land the hugely sweeping generalisation is, men like audio and happily will have half a room taken up by audio equipment and that women don’t.  Since many men also like women there is often a balance between the two things and the so called WAF was born.  Wives often want things to look nice and have a veto on things that look terrible.  This therefore is a clear compromise device.

Having accepted this is a compromise device then it does a good job with its limitations.  The single driver does an excellent job at providing full range audio.  The highs are detailed enough and delicately airy enough to please the ear.  The mids as I mentioned are really good.  They are lovely to behold and I’d strongly advise EQ’ing them up as they are where the 142 shines, so let it shine.  The bass though, it’s just trying too hard.  What’s worse is I can see from its dimensions someone is going to put it in a book case and that just going even more emphasise the problem.  It’s as though the “double super mega bass boost button” is permanently on.  It just didn’t harmoniously melt into the rest of the audio spectrum.  Like a badly mismatched sub and satellite pair.  I realise that for its target market with those pretty 10 colours that having an overly boosted bass hump isn’t exactly a problem, that for many it is probably quite the boon.

You know what though; I think I’m going to miss it when it’s gone back home.  Its boosted bass I learned to tolerate and its mids really are very nice.  I really have enjoyed its vocal renditions greatly.  Hey, I’m a big mids fan.  The other thing I really got used to is Pandora play back, actually the whole phone based control and playback.  Even if the app needs renamed to have Yamaha in the title so you can find it!!! (DTA Controller means nothing to anyone.)  It was somewhat battery draining but so handy.  That really is the star feature of the 142, it’s a handy little do da that makes a pretty pleasing noise and is easy on the eye.