Since the brand was revived by parent Panasonic almost a decade back, most of the buzz about Technics has been to do with its turntables, as it has expanded the appeal of its direct-drive designs beyond the DJ market they once dominated, and into the higher reaches of hi-fi. Mind you, that was the original intention of the models the company first launched in 1969, with the SP-10 aimed at the broadcast market, followed by the consumer SL-1100 a couple of years later. The adoption by the hip hop fraternity was almost accidental, but understandably the company ran with it for almost four decades.
Now the company’s turntable range runs from the SL-1500 variants, from around £1000, all the way up to the SL-1000R, which will cost you the better part of £20,000 – but even before it revived its turntables back in 2014, the company was thinking more about amplifiers and the like to spearhead its Technics revival, and now has a wide spread of amplification and all-in-one models, arranged in three tiers known as Premium Class, Grand Class and Reference Class. The SU-GX70 is one of the most recent arrivals, sitting in the Grand Class and offering the company’s take on the ever-expanding streaming amplifier trend, creating units to which the buyer has only to add speakers to have a complete hi-fi system.
Yes, there’s no end of choice when it comes to ‘lifestyle’ network players, but the SU-GX70 fits into that smaller class of products looking like conventional hi-fi amplifiers, but with the bonus of all that network capability. In other words, it’s an easy-to-use network system, but with the minimalist look – just a volume control and an input selector – of a ‘serious’ amplifier. Not only that, but it has serious hi-fi smarts, too, from a ‘Pure Amplification’ mode for use with external sources – including a turntable of course – which shuts down both the networking section and the HDMI input provided for TV sound, for the cleanest possible performance.
That’s just one of the inputs available here: the others run to line analogue ins, two optical and one coaxial digital, plus a USB-B for computer hook-up and a front-panel USB-A for memory devices. Oh, and to add to the hi-fi credibility, there’s also a DAB/FM tuner for terrestrial broadcasting – and that’s a real rarity these days.
On the streaming front, the SU-GX70 has both Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking, can play your own music from network storage, will also access services including Amazon Music, Qobuz, Spotify and Tidal along with Internet radio stations and podcasts, and has built-in Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth and Chromecast to play from portable devices. You can control it using the remote handset provided, or drive it using the Technics Audio Centre app for Android or iOS, the app also allowing you to drill down into the more advanced features here. Yes, it lets you get to balance and tone controls, but there’s also a clever system named ‘Space Tune’, allowing compensation for your speaker positions: you can either choose general settings, such as close-to-wall, corner or free space, or you can use the microphone in your phone or tablet to analyse the sound, with compensation then automatically applied.
Also available is the Technics Load Adaptive Phase Calibration, which analyses how the system is reacting to the load your speakers place on it, then corrects for optimal performance. There are also all kinds of detail settings, right down to ‘Model Colour’, but disappointingly this doesn’t let the unit change between black and silver!
On paper, the power output of the SU-GX70 may seem modest, at 40W per channel into 8ohm speakers, doubling into a 4ohm load, but in use it proves more than capable of driving a range of speaker to room-filling levels without any signs of stress or strain. True, if you have a really huge room you might do better going for something with more power, but in the majority of living-rooms the Technics will be more than adequate.
And the sound? Well, it’s in the tradition of Technics amplifiers going back decades, to the likes of the UK-tuned SU-A600 of the early 1990s: it’s warm and generous, without trading off detail, and will flatter a wide range of speakers, from small standmounters to compact floorstanding models. That make this one of those amplifiers that’s deceptively easy to enjoy, in that it’s actually delivering loads of detail, from the dynamics of rock music to the subtle ambience in a classical or jazz recording, but doing it all without ever sounding brash or harsh. Instead, it sounds rich and weighty, and just the thing for everything from a spot of background music to a serious listening session.
That’s as true whether you’re playing radio streamed via the Internet – the Technics does a fine job with everything from spoken word broadcasts to live concert streams, making it an excellent all-day companion – or playing hi-res music from a network store of even a USB stick, with which it makes clear the extra detail available from a ‘beyond CD’ file or even some multiple-DSD music from the always reliable nativedsd.com online shop. Best of all, it just transits from format to format with no fuss, so if you have a network library with files in a wide range of file-types, the Technics will simply handle them with ease.
Using the tuning aids here can enhance the sound: that LAPC system really does seem to bring out the best from different speakers, while the ‘Space Tune’ routine did a fine job of sorting out speakers placed in less-than-ideal positions. If you really must have one speaker in a corner, it’s worth using!
Even if you don’t ever use all those extra inputs, the Technics is capable of fulfilling the role of a fine ‘main room’ system all the family can use with ease. Add on a tablet to ‘drive’ it, and pair it with either high-quality standmount speakers or sensibly-priced compact floorstanders, and you won’t go far wrong.
The simple face the Technics presents to the world is borne out in ease with which it can be used via the Audio Centre app, and the fuss-free way it gets on with playing music in a highly involving fashion. But for all that apparent simplicity, this is a highly flexible and capable system, able to accommodate a range of external sources – including a turntable – and with the bonus of a built-in radio tuner. It’s not the least expensive streaming amplifier on the market, but its style and performance make it an excellent buy.
Trevor Horn Relax
This downplayed version of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood hit, from Horn’s Echoes – Ancient & Modern set, combines the talents of Toyah Willcox and Robert Fripp in an atmospheric mix complete with deep bass and spacey vocals – and a fine guitar solo
Robben Ford Blues for Lonnie Johnson
From Ford’s live Night in the City album, this smouldering slow blues underpins his guitar with a subtle bass and drums rhythm section, plus a real ‘you are there’ live ambience the Technics delivers superbly
Anna Fedorova, Borys Fedorov Scriabin Fantasy in A Minor
Superstar pianist Fedorova here plays with her parent on the Fathers & Daughters set, which also features performances by viola player Dana Zemtsov and her father Mikhail. It’s a clever idea, and recorded in sparkling sound by Channel Classics founder Jared Sacks, making it a delight throughout
There are much more obvious buys in this sector of the market, from mini-sized units to high-end rivals from the likes of Linn, Naim and even relative newcomer HiFi Rose, but the Technics deserves its place in the market thanks to impeccable build quality, that logical operation despite all its technology it packs in, and a sound that’s easy to enjoy without ever becoming ‘easy listening’.