The ‘G’ in the name of the Technics SL-G700 SACD player/network streamer stands for ‘Grand Class’. From many other manufacturers in the audio world, this categorisation might seem like hyperbole, but given the build quality of this Technics, it is quite fitting. It’s hard not to be impressed at the fit, finish and execution of this Technics player: you would have to pay a lot more to get an equivalent grade of build quality and feature set from one of the many ‘boutique’ brands in this business. Whether this stonking build is backed up with a sound quality to match will be discussed later, but first impressions count and the first impression of the Technics SL-G700 is powerful.
The G700 is an unusual beast in today’s world; there aren’t many other one-box disc spinner/streamers on the market, with models from Naim, Marantz and Yamaha being the few other riders in this race. However, it’s an understandable concept, as those yet to make the transition to streaming might want something with this degree of flexibility.
The Technics player has digital inputs and outputs and both single-ended and balanced outputs. The G700 features an onboard volume control (should you choose to use it as a digital hub). Ethernet network connectivity is wired or wireless, and it even supports Airplay and Bluetooth, albeit the latter not in its better sounding aptX form. The onboard DAC can decode PCM at up to 32-bit/384kHz and is good for DSD256 with most features being adjustable via the front panel and others accessible with Technics’ Audio Centre control app. The G700 can stream from most of the essential services – including Tidal, Spotify and Qobuz – and has MQA decoding and Chromecast built-in, making it almost universally adapted for contemporary listening styles.
You can, of course, say the same for the more ambitious one box wireless ‘speakers’ that are infiltrating many homes today, but none of them has the quality of circuitry found inside the SL-G700, which continues to impress when you take the lid off. This Technics player has separate AK4497 DACs for each channel with four power supplies driving this critical section of the machine. The AK4497 is Asahi Kasei Microdevices second-generation ‘Velvet Sound’ flagship; a 32-bit differential design with a whopping 128dB signal-to-noise ratio. An even more fundamental element in a digital audio device is the clock, which here is battery powered for maximum accuracy; it’s charged onboard rather than a fixed-charge user-replaceable battery. The output stage is a discrete affair designed for low noise and distortion using a folded cascode array for improved high-frequency performance. There is a dedicated high speed, switched-mode power supply for the zero-feedback analogue circuit to deliver stable power with very low noise and the digital side power supply uses carbon film resistors and ruby mica capacitors. The network connection has a film capacitor in its power supply, and even the digital outputs (Toslink, coax) have an isolated power supply.
The SL-G700’s headphone output has its own DAC circuit that’s independent of the analogue output stage. This circuit uses various Technics processing technologies to remove jitter and optimise noise shaping and is tuned specifically for its application. Internally the chassis is separated so that the shielded power supply does not influence the analogue circuitry. The CD transport mechanism has a triple chassis construction to keep vibration under control, is delightful to use and as smooth as butter: all it needs is an eject button on the remote, and I’d be playing with it all day. More calming for audio enthusiasts with a healthy CD/SACD collection, the quality of that transport mechanism bespeaks of longevity; we’re (hopefully) not at the ‘final CD player’ point, but in case that changes it’s good to have a transport clearly built to last.
I used an Innuos Zenith SE server running Roon as the source. This combination allowed the Technics to deliver a focussed and slightly small scale rendition of artists including Fink and Lana Del Rey, the latter’s voice sounding particularly excellent in the context of a well defined acoustic. I found this to be consistent especially with female singers; a less well-known artist called Olivia Trummer [Fly Now, Contemplate Music] sings to a jazz backing to sometimes excellent effect. While the busier passages of piano and drums could have been smoother, her vocals worked a treat. The Technics does decent three-dimensionality of sound so long as the music remains reasonably straightforward, EST’s ‘Tuesday Wonderland’ [Live in Hamburg, ACT] sounds natural and well separated. However, when the interplay gets intense, the Technics starts to struggle. Give the Technics a straightforward groove, and it’s a happy bunny; ‘Sharing (Live)’ [Bugge Wesseltoft], for instance, sounds powerful and driven with a great groove. However, when the interplay gets rhythmically intense, the Technics can struggle a little.
Spinning a CD, you get a very similar result. The tonal rendering is excellent, and you don’t get the subtle glare that often accompanies the CD format; it’s not quite as resolving as streaming an uncompressed file of the same recording, but few CD players are in my experience. You can hear the effort that Technics has put into keeping noise at bay by playing anything pianissimo; gentle piano can be beautiful and highly atmospheric with plenty of reverb to fill out the picture. Putting an SACD into the tray results in the title info being displayed on the machine and in the Technics app, and you can also control the transport from the same software which is cool. My favourite SACD is La Folia by Gregorio Paniagua and the Atrium Musicae de Madrid [Harmonia Mundi]. This recording combines ancient and modern instruments in an eccentric yet charming fashion, here the tonal richness of those instruments is very nicely resolved especially the higher notes, which creates a strong sense of image depth and scale to the live recording. The Technics takes this disc in its stride.
Another high-resolution recording – this time in streamed form – is the slow blues of Doug MacLeod’s Exactly Like This[Reference Recordings], which sounds excellent on the Technics because it reveals the quality of the recording and the lovely depth and roundness of the acoustic bass so well. I tried the three filter settings that you can access via the app and found that the third one seemed the best suited to my tastes; it has a little more punch than the alternatives. Such things don’t usually have a significant effect, but there is a clear difference between the options on offer here. There are various other features available via the app such as fixed or variable output, MQA decoding, direct and re-master modes and the option to switch off digital and analogue outputs although it’s unlikely you’d get much joy without either. Look a little deeper into the features, and you can find a way of defeating the auto-off function, which is useful as it’s not very patient at all: this machine loves to turn itself off.
The Technics Audio Centre app is a little bit like Linn’s Kazoo with a playlist on the right and browsing on the left; it’s not the quickest to navigate but is relatively intuitive to use after a little practice. The fact that you can go to the top level with one button is a handy feature, especially if you’ve waded deep into Tidal’s waters. However, its approach to this service is page-heavy, and you don’t get large artwork icons when browsing. Also, searching for something is a little sluggish; if you put in a track or artist name, you then have to go through several more filters to get to the work desired.
Back with CD I dropped the Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magik [Warner Bros] into the beautifully machined tray and gave it some beans. The straightforward amped-up funk this worked surprisingly well on the Technics, shining through with plenty of energy and power. Switching (totally seamlessly on the player’s behalf) over to a locally stored rip of the same album produced a cleaner result with lower noise and more exquisite detail. If you have a decent media server, it’s unlikely that you will be playing discs very often, but with SACDs, there isn’t much alternative, so it’s nice to have the option.
The Technics SL-G700 is a superbly executed bit of audio engineering, which reveals the advantages that large corporations have when it comes to fit and finish. The sound it produces will appeal those who are looking for depth of tone and whose tastes don’t stray too far into the murky waters of complex rhythmic interplay. This Technics is a fully-featured and classy piece of hardware for the money that’s likely to prove consistently reliable in the long term, and if you enjoy SACD, it’s a package that’s hard to match.
- Type: Solid-state network streamer, SACD/CD player, DAC
- Analogue Inputs: none
- Digital Inputs: One coaxial S/PDIF (via RCA jack), one TOSLink, USB A
- DAC Resolution/Supported Digital Formats:
FLAC/WAV/MP3, etc. Sampling rate for D/A conversion 384kHz/32 bit
- Music services/Wi-Fi inputs: Tidal, Deezer, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, Airplay, Chromecast
- Analogue Outputs: One stereo balanced
(via XLR connectors), one stereo unbalanced
(via RCA jacks)
- Headphone output: 6.3 mm, 110 mV, 32 Ω vol max
- Digital Outputs: One coaxial S/PDIF (via RCA jack), one TOSLink
- Frequency Response: Super Audio CD: 2 Hz to 50 kHz (-3 dB) / CD: 2Hz to 20 kHz (-3 dB)
- Distortion (THD + Noise): Super Audio CD: 0.0006%
(1 kHz, 0 dB) / CD: 0.0015% (1 kHz, 0 dB)
- User Interface: Display (on main unit), Technics Audio Centre application software for iOS, Android
- Dimensions (H×W×D): 98 × 430 × 407mm
- Weight: 12.2kg
- Price: £2,399
Manufactured by: Technics
Tel: +44(0)333 222 8777