We attended the launch of Sonica, a new product from Oppo Digital. It is going to be launched on August 15, 2016 (perhaps celebrating independence from wires as well?), for an all inclusive price of ₹29,999. Jay Multimedia Inc are the distributors for the product in India.
Oppo Digital is described as a high fidelity wireless speaker system. As Chris Vick (Senior Product Manager) took pains to explain during the launch, the product is aimed for customers who do not want to fuss over wires and plugs, but want an elegant and good sounding product that could fit into every space at home. Simplicity and sound quality are set up to give an edge to this product in a crowded field.
The technology focus of the product is simplicity and versatility. Download the Sonica App on your Android or Apple phone/tablet, set it up in four easy steps using the wifi system in the house, and you are ready to play high resolution formats as well (one of the factors that went into its design). The versatile product allows one to stream music stored in your iDevice via AirPlay, play via Bluetooth, connect a USB drive (which we did, and presto, access to 2TB), use your network computers, or stream online from online music services – interesting Gaana and Sawan are both going to be introduced. If you like wires totally, there is an Aux in. It does not support DSD currently.
While currently there are built in room correction software, future update (can be done via the app) will include Dirac room correction software to optimise for every room (the phone acts as a mike) and regardless of placement. With 3.5 Inch woofer driven by two 15W amp in a bi-amp configuration, and a wideband drivers for the higher frequencies (each driven by a 10W amp), the rounded shape and use of passive radiators on the side ensures that excess energy is well utilised and that there are not rattles.
Want more, you can buy 2 and make it a stereo pair, place at different points for stereo separation. We heard Sonica in a crowded room with many people talking at the launch, and the product seemed to have a clear non-fatiguing sound. However, it would require an audition to know how the product is.
Oppo Digital – Conversation with Chris Vick (Sr Product Manager)
We caught up with Chris to talk about Oppo and its products. Chris works on the planar magnetic headphones and amplifier products of Oppo. Influenced by his father who was into hifi, Chris, a pop rock, metal and folk man, has been with Oppo for four years.
Oppo strives to create high quality product at reasonable prices – keep Oppo designers, suppliers and customers happy through volume sales. The Company’s focus continues to be on Universal Players, despite the popularity of Oppo as a transport or a DAC due to the focus of the Company. The next product will be a 4K UHD player which will play multiple audio formats as well (Sorry folks: no CD player or Transport in the anvil).
The Company considers it flattering that their platform is used by others (Dan of ModWright) to create products that cater to different customer’s tastes. Of course, the warranty of Oppo becomes invalid.
Being in Silicon Valley drives the technology focus of the Company. ESS is close by, as is Silicon Image which gives the video processor. Being next to cutting edge companies drives the Company to offer cutting edge projects.
The move into personal audio came as a part of customer feedback, where they asked for a headphone stage on their players.With the 105, they added a headphone stage. Through the process, the Company fell in love with the sound of planar magnetic headphones. However, they felt that there were issues in terms of sensitivity, power requirement, the weight and the comfort. Since Oppo did not have anyone in the Company experienced in the design of headphones, they knew Igor Levitsky (BG Radia, Antelope Audio) from previous relationships, and he had the driver which Oppo found ideal.
PM1 is the luxury version of PM2 open backed headphones. The PM3 is a different beast – a close backed affordable planar magnetic headphones – and reasonable sensitivity.
Then came the Sonica, which was based on customer tastes and drew on the experience of Igor Levitsky. The Sonica represents a new step for the Company. Company will continue to develop similar products in the future, concentrating on bringing technology at an affordable price and meeting the aesthetic requirement.
Post Script – the amazing Headphones:
We also got to hear the PM1 and PM3 headphones of Oppo, the latter driven by a measly iPhone 5c – rather than nitpick, one word that comes to mind is “Yummy”. We were blown away by the clarity listening to Osmo Vanska conducting Lahti playing Sibelius and banged head (yes you can do that with Classical) with Janos Starker playing Kodaly, all via Apple Music. Closed back PM3 got hot after a while (quite a while!) on the ears, but were very comfortable.
Before looking at headphones in a similar price range, consider the Oppo ones.