CES 2016: One Audio’s high-end hifi-system-in-a-box

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ces2016Imagine buying a car as you would a hifi system: a body from BMW, the transmission from Fiat and an engine from Ford. Nuts, huh?

Thankfully, in the car market at least, common sense rules. In recognising that BMW’s, Fiat’s and Ford’s engineers know more than we do, the vast majority of consumers source their transportation device from a single company. It arrives pre-built and configured for optimum performance.

So why not source a hifi system in a similar fashion: the whole shebang from ONE company with all components tuned precisely as ONE system for optimal sound quality? That’s the question being posited by Sydney’s appropriately named ONE Audio. Their yet-to-be-christened complete system-in-a-box could be seen in two slightly different prototype configurations in Danville Electronics’ Venetian Hotel suite at CES 2016.

One Audio’s intent is to control the entire playback chain from woah to go; no DAC/amplifier lottery to enter, no cable calls to make.

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Two thirds of Australia’s One Audio at CES 2016: Morris Swift [L], Brad Serhan [R].
Think of One Audio’s system(s) as active loudspeakers but with DSP, crossover, D/A conversion and amplification externalised. Off-boarded electronics not only help keep the One Audio the system modular but prevent heat and speaker vibration from spoiling the party. Despite deploying Class D amplification, One Audio’s loudspeaker engineer Brad Serhan says that the two amplifier modules (per channel) produce “quite a bit of heat” when fitted inside the loudspeaker cabinet.

Serhan and colleague David Allen (not present at CES) both handle driver choice/configuration (here Scanspeak Revelators), box construction, tuning/damping whilst company mainman Morris Swift takes care of amplification voicing and digital-domain crossover design for nuanced control over the loudspeaker output. ‘Predictability’ and ‘Consistency’ are Swift’s watchwords.

With a heavy nod toward the pro audio sector, a Neutrik 4-pole connector connects electronics to transducers.

One Audio’s second configuration saw their grey metal x-over/DAC/amplifier box split into two brown-coloured monoblocks, which added Danville Electronics’ hi-res-capable wireless reception to the mix. An iMac-tethered transmitter handled left and right channel splitting and synchronisation.

Swift fleshes out the picture here:

Making judgement calls about audio performance at shows is fraught with risk. At B2B shows likes CES, demo rooms are invariably noisy with the chatter of business and the absence of any baseline rules out the comparisons that lend home-based reviews greater insight.

Moreover, most exhibitors’ music choices remain mostly alien to this commentator’s world. Fortunately, One Audio’s iMac had a coupla choice cuts stashed away in its Roon library: Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” and Tom Waits’ “Jesus Gonna Be Here”. And I’ll tell you this with confidence, the One Audio system’s talents with image depth was nothing short of spectacular, erasing the back wall (window) for a result that was far superior to that which I currently achieve with KEF LS50 powered by a Devialet 200 back home at DAR HQ.

A definite show highlight – ‘Strayaaa!

Per the video, exact pricing remains TBC but is expected to land somewhere in the region of AU$9000 (~US$6000). That’s the costs of a complete system – wireless streamer, DAC, amplifier and loudspeakers – all tuned for optimal performance out of the gate. Just like buying a car.

Further information: One Audio

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Written by John H. Darko

John lives in Sydney, Australia where he derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: dar__ko
Instagram: dar__ko
Facebook: DAR

11 Comments

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  1. “BMW, the transmission from Fiat and an engine from Ford. Nuts, huh?”

    They posit a good question. Buying everything from Sony, Yamaha, or McIntosh, Source to Speakers, is a “keep it simple” approach. In fact I’d take a full McIntosh system.

    Good luck to the team at OneAudio, that concept is very logical.

  2. Sorry, but you car analogy isn’t all that apt 😉 The engines in a Mini e.g. can be found in BMW’s (logical, as it’s the parent company), but also in various Citroën and Peugeot models, Mercedes sources several of the diesel engines for it’s A- & B-class from Renault, Pagani uses Mercedes engines, the Renault Twingo is a Smart …
    That said, I see what you mean, and you’re quite right. I do see an opportunity for retailers in this field as well. They should be able, through thorough knowledge of their products, to assemble “foolproof” combinations, catering to different budget classes.

    • nCore amps are licensed by Hyped to the likes of Merill, Bel Canto and NAD; those are manufacturer decisions. Here, I’m talking about the scenario ordinarily faced by the consumer: compiling a system from potentially from numerous disparate sources instead of putting trust (and cash) in the greater knowledge of a single engineering team for a more unified solution.

  3. Love the idea but locking us into specific speaker models is the flaw. I prefer the Devialet model where the consumer selects the speakers that suit them and the single Devialet pizza box is the amp, pre-amp, DAC & phono stage.

    • Yes, but Devialet must design their amps to accommodate a larger chunk of the world’s loudspeakers. ONE Audio only have to consider a single pair of loudspeakers and then customise the amp’s output accordingly. Think of it this way: you only have one body – do you visit a tailor for a bespoke suit or try to find the best fit from buying off the peg?

  4. Brings us back to Pioneer – or Sony – or Yamaha – or… rack systems :)
    In the 70s and 80s, all manufacturers had complete systems, yet audiophiles started to pick and choose

    • Those are still available to those that want ’em. However, do they offer DSP-customised amplifier outputs for optimal loudspeaker performance?

      • If you put together a McIntosh System, that includes the McIntosh MEN220, aka Lyndorf Licensed RoomPerfect, owners can tune their McIntosh Speakers to their rooms.

        http://www.mcintoshlabs.com/us/Products/pages/ProductDetails.aspx?CatId=Accessories&ProductId=MEN220

        I suppose you could run a Yamaha AV preamps with Yamaha’s Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer too. I’d save all that for Homethater work.

        http://usa.yamaha.com/products/audio-visual/aventage/cx-a5100_black_u/?mode=model

        So specifically DSP-customized amplifier outputs available elsewhere? Unlikely. Can you tell us what’s difference between OneAudio’s concept and using DSP as most understand it?

        • There are many DSP boxes on the market that allow one to apply both speaker and/or room correction. You’ve named the MEN220 which I understand to be a terrific product. So too are DEQX and miniDSP. Ditto Devialet’s SAM. But some of these rely on the end user taking measurements and with a certain degree of accuracy. Some of Devialet’s SAM measurements take place out in the field. Are they always 100% accurate? Devialet owners report varying degrees of satisfaction depending on the (SAM-d) speakers used. I digress…

          Your question is for One Audio themselves, Bill. I’m not clued in enough to know precisely how they apply DSP. I only that they do apply it to voice their speakers, specifically to ‘sweeten’ the tweeter output (among other things), and that their modelling tech could be more involved/advanced than those designed to be applied once the speakers are in situ.